Aggiornamento 30 dicembre

 
  Tool suggests humans entered Europe much earlier than thought, 24 December 2014

A stone knife found at a prehistoric gateway into Europe could force anthropologists to rewrite theories about how our human ancestors first arrived on the continent. Archaeologists discovered the sharp stone tool at an ancient site on the Gediz river, to the east of Izmir, on the Anatolian peninsula of Turkey. They believe the quartzite tool was made around 1.2 million years ago, meaning early humans were in the area far earlier than previously believed. The earliest human remains to be discovered so far in Europe are 1.2 million-year-old bone fragments from the extinct Homo antecessor at Atapuerca, Spain. The spread of human ancestors has been a controversial subject and has led to competing theories of how humans evolved. An extinct species of human, called Homo antecessor, is thought to have been living in Atapuerca, Spain, at least 1.2 million years ago. Footprints attributed to Homo antecessor have also been found in Happisburgh in Norfolk. However, the discovery of stone tools in western Turkey could mean that another species, Homo erectus, whose remains have been found at sites nearby, could have also moved into Europe at around the same time. (...)

     
  Une nouvelle vénus datée de 23 000 ans. Les morceaux d’une statuette en craie représentant une femme ont été retrouvée à Amiens, 14/12/2014

Un petit amas de morceaux de calcaire a été découvert en juillet 2014 sur un chantier de fouilles (Renancourt 1) mené par le service régional de l’archéologie, l’INRAP (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) et le service d’archéologie préventive d’Amiens métropole. Ce chantier est situé dans le quartier Renancourt au sud-ouest d’Amiens. (...)
     
  Israeli cave offers clues about when humans mastered fire, di N. Rogers, "Science-News", 12 December 2014

Mastering fire was one of the most important developments in human prehistory. But it’s also one of the hardest to pin down, with different lines of evidence pointing to different timelines. A new study of artifacts from a cave in Israel suggests that our ancestors began regularly using fire about 350,000 years ago—far enough back to have shaped our culture and behavior but too recent to explain our big brains or our expansion into cold climates. If most archaeological sites offer a snapshot of the ancient past, Tabun Cave provides a time-lapse video. The site, about 24 kilometers south of Haifa, documents 500,000 years of human history. “Tabun Cave is unique in that it’s a site with a very long sequence,” says Ron Shimelmitz, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa and a co-author on the new study. “We could examine step by step how the use of fire changed in the cave.” The researchers examined artifacts previously excavated from the site, which are mostly flint tools for cutting and scraping, and flint debris created in their manufacture. To determine when fire became a routine part of the lives of the cave dwellers, the team looked at flints from about 100 layers of sediments in the lowermost 16 meters of the cave deposits. (...)

     
  Neanderthal bones in Northern France, 10 December 2014

At a rescue excavation of an open-air prehistoric site, Tourville-la-Rivière in the Seine Valley of Normandy in northern France, archaeologists were in for a surprise - the discovery of three long human arm bones. The experts detail the unearthing, description, and analysis of these three partially crushed bones: a left humerus, radius, and ulna from the same upper left limb. The authors of the study used a spectroscopic technique (electron spin resonance, or ESR) and a radiometric dating technique (Uranium-thorium dating, or U-series dating) to determine an approximate age for the Tourville human remains. They then scanned the bones in an X-ray and processed them on the computer to generate a 3D cross-sectional image of the bones, allowing them to examine their shapes and characterize them within the Neanderthal lineage. (...)

     
 

Environmental History of European High Mountains, "Quaternary International", Volume 353, Pages 1-266 (5 December 2014). Edited by Didier Galop and Norm Catto


- Mid-Late Holocene environmental change and human activities in the northern Apennines, Italy,
di N. P. Branch, N. A.F. Marini

- The earliest Acheulean technology at Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain): Oldest levels of the Galería site (GII Unit),
di P. García-Medrano, A. Ollé, M. Mosquera, I. Cáceres, C. Díez, E. Carbonell

     
 

Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving, di J. C. A. Joordens et alii, "Nature-Letter", 03 December 2014, doi:10.1038/nature13962

The manufacture of geometric engravings is generally interpreted as indicative of modern cognition and behaviour1. Key questions in the debate on the origin of such behaviour are whether this innovation is restricted to Homo sapiens, and whether it has a uniquely African origin1. Here we report on a fossil freshwater shell assemblage from the Hauptknochenschicht (‘main bone layer’) of Trinil (Java, Indonesia), the type locality of Homo erectus discovered by Eugène Dubois in 1891 (refs 2 and 3). In the Dubois collection (in the Naturalis museum, Leiden, The Netherlands) we found evidence for freshwater shellfish consumption by hominins, one unambiguous shell tool, and a shell with a geometric engraving. We dated sediment contained in the shells with 40Ar/39Ar and luminescence dating methods, obtaining a maximum age of 0.54 ± 0.10 million years and a minimum age of 0.43 ± 0.05 million years. This implies that the Trinil Hauptknochenschicht is younger than previously estimated. Together, our data indicate that the engraving was made by Homo erectus, and that it is considerably older than the oldest geometric engravings described so far4, 5. Although it is at present not possible to assess the function or meaning of the engraved shell, this discovery suggests that engraving abstract patterns was in the realm of Asian Homo erectus cognition and neuromotor control.

     
 

Homo erectus made world's oldest doodle 500,000 years ago, di E. Callaway, "Nature-News", 03 December 2014

A zigzag engraving on a shell from Indonesia is the oldest abstract marking ever found. But what is most surprising about the half-a-million-year-old doodle is its likely creator — the human ancestor Homo erectus. "This is a truly spectacular find and has the potential to overturn the way we look at early Homo," says Nick Barton, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who was not involved in the discovery, which is described in a paper published online in Nature on 3 December. By 40,000 years ago, and probably much earlier, anatomically modern humans — Homo sapiens — were painting on cave walls in places as far apart as Europe2 and Indonesia3. Simpler ochre engravings found in South Africa date to 100,000 years ago4. Earlier this year, researchers reported a 'hashtag' engraving in a Gibraltar cave once inhabited by Neanderthals5. That was the first evidence for drawing in any extinct species. But until the discovery of the shell engraving, nothing approximating art has been ascribed to Homo erectus. The species emerged in Africa about 2 million years ago and trekked as far as the Indonesian island of Java, before going extinct around 140,000 years ago. Most palaeoanthropologists consider the species to be the direct ancestor of both humans and Neanderthals. (...)

· La prima opera d'arte? Una conchiglia di 500.000 anni fa, di B. Keim, "National Geographic Italia", 04 dicembre 2014

· Etchings on a 500,000-year-old shell appear to have been made by human ancestor, di M. Balter, "Science-News", 3 December 2014

· Quando Homo erectus inventò le decorazioni geometriche, "Le Scienze", 03 dicembre 2014

     
  Palaeolithic research at Mochlos, Crete: new evidence for Pleistocene maritime activity in the Aegean, di C. Runnels, F. McCoy, R. Bauslaugh, P. Murray, "Antiquity-Project Gallery", Issue 342, December 2014

To reach Europe, archaic hominins followed multiple pathways, including a terrestrial route through south-west Asia (Carbonell et al. 2008), and perhaps across the Strait of Gibraltar to Iberia in the west (Rolland 2013). The Aegean has been proposed as another possible gateway to south-eastern Europe, both by land and by sea (Tourloukis & Karkanas 2012; Broodbank 2013: 82–108). But did archaic hominins use boats to cross the open sea with islands as possible way points (Simmons 2014: 203–12; Runnels in press)? During a geological study of a Quaternary alluvial fan sequence at Mochlos, Crete, the chance discovery of isolated artefacts of Lower and/or Middle Palaeolithic type may throw light on this question  (...).

     
  Specialised hunting of Iberian ibex during Neanderthal occupation at El Esquilleu Cave, northern Spain, di J. Yravedra Sáinz de los Terreros, A. Gómez‑Castanedo, J. Aramendi Picado, J. Baena Preysler, "Antiquity", Issue 342 - December 2014, Volume: 88, Page: 1035–1049

Traditional views of Neanderthal hunting strategies envisage them preying on herd species such as bison and deer, rather than the sophisticated tracking of solitary animals. Analysis of faunal remains from El Esquilleu Cave in northern Spain, however, demonstrates that during certain periods of the Middle Palaeolithic occupation, Neanderthals focused on the hunting of ibex and chamois, small solitary species that inhabited the mountainous terrain around the site. These results indicate that Neanderthal hunting practices may have had more similarity to those of their Upper Palaeolithic relatives than is usually assumed.

     
  Right for the Wrong Reasons: Reflections on Modern Human Origins in the Post-Neanderthal Genome Era, di T. W. Holliday, J. R. Gautney, L. Friedl, "Current Anthropology", Vol. 55, No. 6, December 2014, pp. 696-724

The sequencing of the Neanderthal genome answered once and for all the question of whether these hominins played a role in the origins of modern humans—they did, and a majority of humans alive today retain a small portion of Neanderthal genes. This finding rejects the strictest versions of the Recent African Origin model and has been celebrated by supporters of Multiregional Evolution (MRE). However, we argue that MRE can also be rejected and that other, intermediate, models of modern human origins better represent the means by which modern humans became the only extant human species. We argue this because we reject one of the major tenets of MRE: global gene flow that prevents cladogenesis from occurring. First, using reconstructions of Pleistocene hominin census size, we maintain that populations were neither large nor dense enough to result in such high levels of gene flow across the Old World. Second, we use mammalian divergence and hybridization data to show that the emergence of Homo is recent enough that member species of this genus were unlikely to have been reproductively isolated from each other, even in the absence of the high levels of global gene flow postulated by MRE supporters.

     
 

The Transition to the Acheulean in East Africa: an Assessment of Paradigms and Evidence from Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), di I. de la Torre, R. Mora, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", December 2014, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 781-823

The origin of the Acheulean constitutes a key aspect of current research in the archaeology of human evolution. Olduvai Gorge is one of the main sites in Africa in the study of the transition from the Oldowan to the Acheulean, due to both the uniqueness of its archaeological record, and the influence of early investigations at Olduvai on the development of Early Stone Age research. This paper reviews the impact of work at Olduvai in shaping a modern view of cultural evolution from the Oldowan to the Acheulean. It also evaluates the lithic assemblages excavated by Mary Leakey in Olduvai Middle and Upper Bed II, based on a first-hand review of the collections. We conclude that previous paradigms used to explain inter-assemblage variability are not superseded as much as generally assumed, and that a modern view of the origins of the Acheulean requires a reassessment of the cultural, biological, and paleoecological evidence at Olduvai and elsewhere in Africa.

     
  The Role of Freshwater and Marine Resources in the Evolution of the Human Diet, Brain and Behavior, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 77, Pages 1-216 (December 2014). Edited by Stephen Cunnane, Kathlyn Stewart and Ian Tattersall


- Environmental change and hominin exploitation of C4-based resources in wetland/savanna mosaics, di K. M. Stewart

- The origins and significance of coastal resource use in Africa and Western Eurasia,
di C. W. Marean

- Metabolism as a tool for understanding human brain evolution: Lipid energy metabolism as an example,
di S. Pei Wang, H. Yang, J. Wei Wu, N. Gauthier, T. Fukao, G. A. Mitchell

- Orangutan fish eating, primate aquatic fauna eating, and their implications for the origins of ancestral hominin fish eating,
di A. E. Russon, A. Compost, P. Kuncoro, A. Ferisa

- Nutrition, modernity and the archaeological record: Coastal resources and nutrition among Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers on the western Cape coast of South Africa,
di K. Kyriacou, J. E. Parkington, A. D. Marais, D. R. Braun

- Early Pleistocene aquatic resource use in the Turkana Basin,
di W. Archer, D. R. Braun, J. W.K. Harris, J. T. McCoy, B. G. Richmond

- Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: Implications for brain expansion during human evolution,
di S. C. Cunnane, M. A. Crawford

- Docosahexaenoic acid and human brain development: Evidence that a dietary supply is needed for optimal development,
di J. T. Brenna, S. E. Carlson

- A fish is not a fish: Patterns in fatty acid composition of aquatic food may have had implications for hominin evolution,
di J. C.A. Joordens, R. S. Kuipers, J. H. Wanink, F.A.J. Muskiet

- Another unique river: A consideration of some of the characteristics of the trunk tributaries of the Nile River in northwestern Ethiopia in relationship to their aquatic food resources,
di J. Kappelman, D. Tewabe, L. Todd, M. Feseha, M. Kay, G. Kocurek, B. Nachman, N. Tabor, M. Yadeta

- The appropriation of glucose through primate neurodevelopment,
di A. L. Bauernfeind, C. C. Babbitt

- Diet as driver and constraint in human evolution,
di I. Tattersall

- Craniofacial modularity, character analysis, and the evolution of the premaxilla in early African hominins,
di B. A. Villmoare, C. Dunmore, S. Kilpatrick, N. Oertelt, M. J. Depew, J. L. Fish

- Food material properties and early hominin processing techniques,
di K. D. Zink, D. E. Lieberman, P. W. Lucas

- Neandertal growth: What are the costs?
di A. Mateos, I. Goikoetxea, W. R. Leonard, J. Á. Martín-González, G. Rodríguez-Gómez, J. Rodríguez

- A comparison of catarrhine genetic distances with pelvic and cranial morphology: Implications for determining hominin phylogeny,
di N. von Cramon-Taubadel, S. J. Lycett

- Dating human occupation at Toca do Serrote das Moendas, São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí-Brasil by electron spin resonance and optically stimulated luminescence,
di A. Kinoshita et alii

- ‘Fire at will’: The emergence of habitual fire use 350,000 years ago,
di R. Shimelmitz, S. L. Kuhn, A. J. Jelinek, A. Ronen, A. E. Clark, M. Weinstein-Evron

- A revision of hominin fossil teeth from Fontana Ranuccio (Middle Pleistocene, Anagni, Frosinone, Italy),
di M. Rubini, V. Cerroni, G. Festa, R. Sardella, P. Zaio

     
  Hommes et environnements au Paléolithique supérieur en Ukraine continentale et en Crimée, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 118, Issue 5, Pages 479-598 (November–December 2014),

- Hommes et environnements au Paléolithique supérieur en Ukraine continentale et en Crimée: introduction, di S. Péan, S. Prat

- Codes mythiques du Mézinien, di M. Otte

- Analyse du débitage laminaire du site de Mezhyrich: habitations no 1, 2 et 3, di V. M. Lozovski, O. V. Lozovskaya

- Isotopes stables (13C, 15N) du collagène des mammouths de Mezhyrich (Epigravettien, Ukraine): implications paléoécologiques, di D. G. Drucker, H. Bocherens, S. Péan

- Analyse des micromammifères du site épigravettien de Mezhyrich (Ukraine), di L. Rekovets, D. Nowakowski, K. Lech

- Les assemblages lithiques du site épigravettien de Buzhanka 2 (Ukraine), di D. Stupak

- Les occupations gravettiennes de Buran-Kaya III (Crimée): contexte archéologique), di A. Yanevich

- Stress physiologique et état de santé des plus anciens Hommes anatomiquement modernes du sud-est de l’Europe (données dentaires, couche 6-1, Buran-Kaya III, Crimée), di S. Prat

- Comportements de subsistance au Paléolithique supérieur en Crimée : analyse archéozoologique des couches 6-2, 6-1 et 5-2 de Buran-Kaya III, di L. Crépin, S. Péan, M. Lázničková-Galetová

     
  Archaeologists race against time to explore Neanderthal site, 29 November 2014

University of Southampton archaeologists are working to save important Palaeolithic remains at a rare Neanderthal site, before they are lost to the forces of nature. The Baker's Hole site, at Ebbsfleet in Kent, is Britain's foremost location for evidence dating to the time when Britain was being colonised by early Neanderthals, some 250,000 years ago, but researchers are racing to excavate and examine the surviving remains, as erosion, animal burrows and plant roots threaten to damage the site. (...)

     
 

Genomic structure in Europeans dating back at least 36,200 years, di A. Seguin-Orlando et alii, "Science", 28 November 2014: Vol. 346 no. 6213 pp. 1113-1118

The origin of contemporary Europeans remains contentious. We obtained a genome sequence from Kostenki 14 in European Russia dating from 38,700 to 36,200 years ago, one of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans from Europe. We find that Kostenki 14 shares a close ancestry with the 24,000-year-old Mal’ta boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some contemporary western Siberians, and many Europeans, but not eastern Asians. Additionally, the Kostenki 14 genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with a population basal to all Eurasians that also relates to later European Neolithic farmers. We find that Kostenki 14 contains more Neandertal DNA that is contained in longer tracts than present Europeans. Our findings reveal the timing of divergence of western Eurasians and East Asians to be more than 36,200 years ago and that European genomic structure today dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a metapopulation that at times stretched from Europe to central Asia.

· Modern Europeans have genetic ties that bind them together much further back in time than once thought, scientists report after analyzing a prehistoric Russian man's DNA, di A. Curry, "National Geographic", November 6, 2014

     
  Lucy discoverer on the ancestor people relate to, di E. Callaway, "Natura-News", 21 November 2014

“Feeling really lucky,” Donald Johanson wrote in his diary the morning of 24 November 1974, while staying at a remote camp in northern Ethiopia’s Afar region. Hours later, the palaeoanthropologist, now at Arizona State University in Tempe, happened upon the 3.2-million-year-old remains of a small-bodied early human, possibly on the lineage that gave rise to Homo sapiens. He and his collaborators named it Australopithecus afarensis, and the skeleton became known to the world as Lucy. Forty years on, Johanson, now 71, talks about the discovery and Lucy’s enduring importance and appeal. (...)

     
  Livre: Pré-ludes, autour de l'homme préhistorique, di Yves Coppens - Editions Odile Jacob
     
  Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no, November 18, 2014

Researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans. (...)
     
  Loess and the record of upper Palaeolithic cultures in the Danube Basin, "Quaternary International", Volume 351, Pages 1-230 (17 November 2014). Edited by Christine Neugebauer-Maresch, Ulrich Hambach and Mircea Anghelinu


- Loess and the record of Upper Palaeolithic cultures in the Danube Basin,
di C. Neugebauer-Maresch, U. Hambach, M. Anghelinu

- The archaeological record of the Gravettian open air site Krems-Wachtberg,
di U. Simon, M. Händel, T. Einwögerer, C. Neugebauer-Maresch

- The conceptual sedimentary model of the Lower Danube loess basin: Sedimentogenetic implications,
di D. C. Jipa

- Geoarchaeology of Upper Palaeolithic loess sites located within a transect through Moravian valleys, Czech Republic,
di L. Lisá, J. Hošek, A. Bajer, T. Matys Grygar, D. Vandenberghe

- Krems-Wachtberg excavations 2005–12: Main profiles, sampling, stratigraphy, and site formation,
di M. Händel, T. Einwögerer, U. Simon, C. Neugebauer-Maresch

- Upper Palaeolithic occupation in the Wachtberg area of Krems: The evidence of surveys, sections and core samples,
di T. Einwögerer, M. Händel, U. Simon, A. Masur, C. Neugebauer-Maresch

- Paleoenvironmental fluctuations as recorded in the loess-paleosol sequence of the Upper Paleolithic site Krems-Wachtberg,
di B. Terhorst, P. Kühn, B. Damm, U. Hambach, S. Meyer-Heintze, S. Sedov

- Our oldest children: Age constraints for the Krems-Wachtberg site obtained from various thermoluminescence dating approaches,
di L. Zöller, D. Richter, H. Blanchard, T. Einwögerer, M. Händel, C. Neugebauer-Maresch

- Luminescence based loess chronostratigraphy of the Upper Palaeolithic site Krems-Wachtberg, Austria,
di J. Lomax, M. Fuchs, F. Preusser, M. Fiebig

- Geoarchaeological prospection in the loess steppe: Preliminary results from the Lower Danube Survey for Paleolithic Sites (LoDanS),
di R. Iovita, A. Doboş, K. E. Fitzsimmons, M. Probst, U. Hambach, M. Robu, M. Vlaicu, A. Petculescu

- Hearth-side bone assemblages within the 27 ka BP Krems-Wachtberg settlement: Fired ribs and the mammoth bone-grease hypothesis,
di F. A. Fladerer, T. A. Salcher-Jedrasiak, M. Händel

- Spatial and chronological patterns of the lithics of hearth 1 at the Gravettian site Krems-Wachtberg,
di R. Thomas, J. Ziehaus

- Radiolarite studies at Krems-Wachtberg (Lower Austria): Northern Alpine versus Carpathian lithic resources,
di M. Brandl, C. Hauzenberger, W. Postl, M. M. Martinez, P. Filzmoser, G. Trnka

- Archaeological significance of the Palaeolithic charcoal assemblage from Krems-Wachtberg, di O. Cichocki, B. Knibbe, I. Tillich

- What's in a name: The Aurignacian in Romania,
di M. Anghelinu, L. Niţă

- Preliminary reassessment of the Aurignacian in Banat (South-western Romania),
di V. Sitlivy et alii

- Genesis of loess-like sediments and soils at the foothills of the Banat Mountains, Romania – Examples from the Paleolithic sites Româneşti and Coşava,
di H. Kels et alii

     

Aggiornamento 9 novembre

 
  Paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental context of the Early Pleistocene hominins from Dmanisi (Georgia, Lesser Caucasus) inferred from the herpetofaunal assemblage, di H. A. Blain, J. Agustí, D. Lordkipanidze, L. Rook, M. Delfino, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 105, 1 December 2014, Pages 136–150

Dmanisi is currently the oldest Early Palaeolithic site discovered out of Africa. It has produced over 40 hominin remains, including a set of very informative skulls, in direct association with faunal remains and numerous lithic artifacts. Given the relevance of this locality, every effort is being made to reconstruct the landscapes where these hominins once lived. Amphibian and reptile remains from Dmanisi are here described for the first time and used as paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental proxies. They comprise at least six taxa: a green toad (Bufo gr. Bufo viridis), the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca), a green lizard (Lacerta gr. Lacerta viridis), a four-lined snake (Elaphe gr. Elaphe quatuorlineata), an indeterminate colubrid and a water snake (Natrix sp.). As these taxa are not extinct and their ecology can be directly studied, they can contribute to the reconstruction of the landscape and climate. The application of the Mutual Climatic Range method provides quantitative data indicating that during the hominin presence at Dmanisi climate was warm and dry, similar to the present-day Mediterranean climate. In comparison with today climate of Dmanisi, estimated mean annual temperature was 3.1 °C higher, with a greater increase of temperature in summer (+7.1 °C) than in winter (+4.7 °C). The mean annual precipitation was slightly lower (−65 mm) than the current level, with precipitation higher than current one during winter (+104 mm) but strongly lower during the other seasons, suggesting a stronger contrast in the rainfall regime during the year. From a paleoenvironmental point of view, fossil amphibians and reptiles all suggest the predominance of arid environments, from steppe or semi-desert to open Mediterranean forest, with stony or rocky substrate and bushy areas. The presence of permanent aquatic environments is also documented. These results mainly agree with those for large mammals, small mammals and the archaeobotanical analysis that indicate an important water stress suggesting a period of increased aridity contemporaneous with human occupations of the site.

     
  Using obsidian transfer distances to explore social network maintenance in late Pleistocene hunter–gatherers, di E. Pearce, T. Moutsiou, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 36, December 2014, Pages 12–20

Social behaviour is notoriously difficult to study archaeologically and it is unclear how large the networks of prehistoric humans were, or how they remained connected. Maintaining social cohesion was crucial for early humans because social networks facilitate cooperation and are imperative for survival and reproduction. Recent hunter–gatherer social organisation typically comprises a number of nested layers, ranging from the nuclear family through to the ~1500-strong ethnolinguistic tribe. Here we compare maximum obsidian transfer distances from the late Pleistocene with ethnographic data on the size of the geographic areas associated with each of these social grouping layers in recent hunter–gatherers. The closest match between the two is taken to indicate the maximum social layer within which contact could be sustained by Pleistocene hominins. Within both the (sub)tropical African and Subarctic biomes, the maximum obsidian transfer distances for Pleistocene modern humans (~200 km and ~400 km respectively) correspond to the geographic ranges of the outermost tribal layer in recent hunter–gatherers. This suggests that modern humans could potentially sustain the cohesion of their entire tribe at all latitudes, even though networks are more dispersed nearer the poles. Neanderthal maximum obsidian transfer distances (300 km) indicate that although Neanderthal home ranges are larger than those of low latitude hominins, Neanderthals travelled shorter distances than modern humans living at the same high latitudes. We argue that, like modern humans, Neanderthals could have maintained tribal cohesion, but that their tribes were substantially smaller than those of contemporary modern humans living in similar environments. The greater time taken to traverse the larger modern human tribal ranges may have limited the frequency of their face-to-face interactions and thus necessitated additional mechanisms to ensure network connectivity, such as the exchange of symbolic artefacts including ornaments and figurines. Such cultural supports may not have been required to the same extent by the Neanderthals due to their smaller tribes and home ranges.

     
  Ornamental traditions in the Eastern Adriatic: The Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic personal adornments from Vela Spila (Croatia), di E. Cristiani, R. Farbstein, P. Miracle, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 36, December 2014, Pages 21–31

This paper advances the current knowledge on past foragers’ ornamental traditions by comparing the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic personal adornments from the southeastern Mediterranean, with a particular focus on the site of Vela Spila (Korčula island, Croatia). The assemblages we discuss here date from c. 19,500–8150 cal BP, with occupational evidence both before and after the Pleistocene–Holocene transition in the region. The assemblages from Vela Spila comprise one of the largest and richest records of prehistoric personal ornamentation in Southeastern Europe. Our analysis has allowed us to reconstruct changing traditions and technologies of social expression and symbolism in the Adriatic during a crucial period of social, technological, and environmental transition. In particular, our data reveal an apparent shift in ornamental traditions and technologies from the Late Palaeolithic, when diverse marine and terrestrial raw materials were collected and modified to make ornaments, to the Mesolithic, when a single marine gastropod was used exclusively. When these results are contextualised and compared across the Adriatic region, and, more broadly, at sites throughout southeastern Europe, Vela Spila appears unique in its significance as a procurement and processing centre for one important type of Mesolithic ornament, Columbella rustica. The repeatedly and exclusive selection of this marine gastropod to make ornaments during the Mesolithic seems to be a clue that it was fundamentally important for the construction and maintenance of identity and personhood.

     
 

Towards complexity in osseous raw material exploitation by the first anatomically modern humans in Europe: Aurignacian antler working, di J. M. Tejero, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 36, December 2014, Pages 72–92

This paper asses changes in the exploitation of osseous raw material (namely deer antler) during the early Upper Palaeolithic in Europe. Through examining four variables; raw material procurement, blank production, object manufacture and equipment maintenance, the author establishes that the complex and innovative working of osseous materials is restricted to antler working at around 40 Ka cal BP and are thus chronologically coincident with the emergence of the Early Aurignacian. Conversely, bone exploitation (known from the Lower Palaeolithic), shows a continuity through the Mousterian, the Proto-Aurignacian and the Early Aurignacian, invalidating the argument that osseous material exploitation represents a radical difference between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in Europe. By considering the technological and functional aspects of the Early Aurignacian antler equipment, including their chronological and palaeoclimatic (Heinrich event 4/Campanian Ignimbrite eruption) context, a hypothesis that may explain the incentives behind the emergence of complex osseous raw material exploitation in Europe during the late Pleistocene is proposed.

     
 

Millennial-scale change in archaeofaunas and their implications for Mousterian lithic variability in southwest France, di E. Morin, A. Delagnes, D. Armand, J. C. Castel, J. Hodgkins, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 36, December 2014, Pages 158–180

The problem of Mousterian interassemblage variability is fundamental because it affects our models about social, technological and economic organization of Middle Paleolithic hominins. Particularly controversial is the issue of whether this variability reflects a chronological succession of industries or differences in ethnicity, site function, tool curation or raw material use, among others. Here, the chronological hypothesis is examined by correlating faunal data in southwest France with independently dated climatic events. In agreement with this hypothesis, our data show consistent patterns in lithic and faunal composition between sequences that are incompatible with scenarios assuming a coexistence or alternation of industries. Our results imply that industrial variability during the Late Pleistocene Middle Paleolithic follows distinct chronological stages not unlike those in later periods. Building on correlations indicating that archaeofaunas were tuned to climatic change induced by orbital forcing, we assess the implications of a new independently-derived chronology for our understanding of the Mousterian of France.
 

 

 

The alleged Early Palaeolithic artefacts are in reality geofacts: a revision of the site of Kończyce Wielkie 4 in the Moravian Gate, South Poland, di A. Wiśniewski, J. Badura, T. Salamon, J. Lewandowski, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 52, December 2014, Pages 189–203

In this paper we show that a site Kończyce Wielkie 4 (SW Poland) published in JAS (2010a) by Foltyn et al. can no longer be accepted as a reliable evidence for the oldest presence of humans in the northern part of Carpathians and Sudetes Mountains (Matuyama-Brunhes). Unfortunately, in the light of conducted analysis among others with Peacock's method, it seems that the lithics from Kończyce Wielkie appear to be much more similar to geofacts rather than to artefacts. As a background for comparison Lower Paleolithic artefacts from two German sites Wallendorf and Wangen were used. Moreover, the petrological determination of the finds from Kończyce Wielkie is also dubious issue. Foltyn et al. suggested a long distance transport of lithics from several sources. As it has been demonstrated in the paper, local glacial sediments consist of rocks that are analogous to published lithic spectrum. Finally, the geological data shown by Foltyn et al. seem to be incorrect. Authors did not take into account the results concerning the regional geology that indicate clearly much younger age of layers dated by Foltyn et al. (2010a) at the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene.

     
 

In search of Paleolithic dogs: a quest with mixed results, di D. F. Morey, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 52, December 2014, Pages 300–307

Archaeological evidence has long placed the origins of the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) just prior to the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, some 12,000–15,000 years ago. Some studies of genetic profiles of modern canids have, however, suggested a much earlier origin, dating to Paleolithic times and perhaps exceeding 100,000 years. With such studies as a backdrop, cases have been made recently on archaeological grounds for Paleolithic dogs that in certain cases exceed 30,000 years old. When examined systematically, however, some such studies exhibit conceptual and methodological flaws, calling into serious question the accuracy of the cases advanced. At least one recent study highlights that difficulty. When a series of cases for putative Paleolithic dogs is assessed, convincing cases for such dogs are confined to about the past 15,000 years, or latest Paleolithic times. Further developments on certain specific fronts may change that, but for the time being the longstanding archaeological understanding of the dog domestication time frame continues to be reasonably accurate. Recent molecular genetic studies are converging on that temporal framework as well. Archaeologists need not be automatically swayed by ongoing changes in molecular genetic profiles.

     
 

Lithic tool management in the Early Middle Paleolithic: an integrated techno-functional approach applied to Le Pucheuil-type production (Le Pucheuil, northwestern France), di T. Lazuén, A. Delagnes, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 52, December 2014, Pages 337–353

The significant development of predetermined flake technologies marks the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic in Europe. This phenomenon is not only expressed by the increase in the Levallois methods, but it also includes a diversity of other flaking methods, e.g. micro-Levallois, Kombewa, truncated-faceted and Le Pucheuil, often related to secondary reduction sequences. The tool management and use patterns they fulfill are still largely unknown due to the scarcity of use-wear analyses, whereas their technological characteristics are well defined. In this paper we present a combined technological and functional study of Le Pucheuil-type flakes (Delagnes, 1993), from the eponymous Early Middle Paleolithic site of Le Pucheuil (northwestern France). The technical investment during the reduction sequence is relatively low but flaking is nevertheless guided by specific and constant technical rules which result in the production of predetermined flakes. These flakes share common morphotechnical attributes: an acute, straight or slightly curved, distal edge opposed to a robust and wide proximal area. The use-wear analysis shows that this morphology was clearly sought after insofar as the distal acute edges were used as working edges while the proximal edges served as prehensile areas. Despite their similarity, Le Pucheuil-type flakes were used for a variety of tasks, including butchery but also hide scraping, wood and non-woody plant working. Tool management suggests that their production responded to deferred and/or collective uses. Our combined approach points to: 1. the high degree of elaborateness and flexibility of the tool management strategies developed in the Early Middle Paleolithic in Europe, 2. the presence of long-lasting and multi-activity occupations in an open-air context during the harsh environmental conditions at the beginning of the penultimate glaciation (OIS 6). The results finally show the great potential of combined technological/functional approaches to lithic assemblages as a way to refine our understanding of the technical, social and economical organization of Neanderthal hunter-gatherers, most specifically in contexts where lithics are the only preserved materials.

     
 

Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic site formation processes at the Bordes-Fitte rockshelter (Central France), T. Aubry et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 52, December 2014, Pages 436–457

Transformation in technological patterns associated with the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition between 50 and 40 ka in Western Europe and their relationship with the Neanderthal and Anatomically Modern Human populations and behaviors are issues that continue to stimulate heated debate. In this article we use the Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic archaeo-stratigraphic record from the Bordes-Fitte rockshelter (les Roches d'Abilly site, Central France), a Bayesian analysis of the ages obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon on ultrafiltered collagen and by luminescence on quartz and feldspar grains, to establish a timeline for material culture and sedimentary dynamic changes during the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition. Technology, refitting studies and taphonomy of lithic artifacts recovered in the geoarchaeological field units D1 and D2 permit to characterize 3 reduction strategies (Levallois, Discoidal and Châtelperronian blade) that took place between the cold Heinrich events 5 and 4. We discuss the implications of the results to characterize the end of the Middle Palaeolithic, and for distinguishing anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors in Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic assemblage's variability.

     
 

Chronology of the Middle Palaeolithic open-air site of Combe Brune 2 (Dordogne, France): a multi luminescence dating approach, di M. Frouin et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 52, December 2014, Pages 524–534

The Bergerac region of south-western France is well known for its wealth of Middle Palaeolithic open-air sites. However, their chronology remains poorly understood due to the complexity of the deposits and difficulties applying radiometric dating techniques. Combe Brune 2, excavated in 2006 and 2007 by the INRAP (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), comprises a substantial stratigraphic sequence providing an almost continuous sedimentary record that is unique for the region. Three lithic assemblages were documented in the eastern part of the site and six stratified assemblages in the western part, five of which are concentrated in Unit 7. All the clearly individualised industries portray an unequivocal techno-economic coherence and are dominated by Levallois debitage. Minerals present in the sediments were dated by the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) using different protocols (Thermal–Transfer: TT-OSL for quartz grains and IRSL and post-IR IRSL for feldspar grains). Heated flints were also dated by thermoluminescence (TL). Dating results obtained from quartz and feldspars grains provide an age of 234 ± 25 ka for Unit 8 at the base of the western sequence, 161 ± 18 to 97.3 ± 12 ka for Unit 7; 63.1 ± 6.5 ka for Unit 4 and a series of ages ranging from 39.2 ± 4.0 to 22.3 ± 2.2 ka for Unit 3. TL ages obtained from heated flints recovered from the base of Unit 7 in the eastern section range from 183 ± 20 to 195 ± 16 ka. These results are in good agreement and are stratigraphically coherent, suggesting that the Early Middle Palaeolithic occupation, the first documented for the Bergerac region, can be placed at the end of Marine Isotopic Stage (MIS) 7 and the beginning of MIS 6.

     
  L’odyssée humaine – Les moteurs cachés de notre évolution, "Pour la Science", Revue scientifique, Numéro spécial 445, Novembre 2014

En paléontologie humaine, les 15 dernières années ont été riches en découvertes. A leur lumière, les scientifiques ont dû revoir pratiquement tous les chapitres de l'histoire de l'humanité. Pour son numéro spécial, Pour la Science revient sur l'Odyssée humaine avec 12 articles de chercheurs internationaux sur les moteurs cachés de notre évolution. Et toujours les débats science et société et les rubriques phares du magazine. La pagination de ce numéro spécial augmente, de 96 pages, Pour la Science passe à 128 pages ! (...)
     
  Reconnaissance survey for Palaeolithic sites in the Debed River Valley, northern Armenia, di C. P. Egeland, B. Gasparian, D. Arakelyan, C. M. Nicholson, A. Petrosyan, R. Ghukasyan, R. Byerly, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 39, Issue 4 (November 2014), pp. 370-386

The southern Caucasus is a critical region for those interested in Palaeolithic research because of its varied topography and location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Modern Armenia sits at the heart of this area, but has until now played a small role in broader debates, largely because of its paucity of well-excavated and well-dated sites. To improve this situation, a survey was conducted for Palaeolithic sites along the valley of the Debed River (Lori Depression, northeastern Armenia). Twenty-three open-air sites, spanning the Lower through the Upper Palaeolithic periods, were identified. Most of the lithic material is of Middle Palaeolithic manufacture. Upper Palaeolithic material is also well represented, but only a handful of Lower Palaeolithic artifacts have been identified. Test excavations at several sites suggest that they preserve in situ deposits that may help us to understand the role of the southern Caucasus in the Palaeolithic occupation of Eurasia.

     
  New evidence for the Mousterian and Gravettian at Rio Secco Cave, Italy, di M. Peresani, M. Romandini, R. Duches, C. Jéquier, N. Nannini, A. Pastoors, A. Picin, I. Schmidt, M. Vaquero, G.C. Weniger, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 39, Issue 4 (November 2014), pp. 401-416

The dearth of evidence for late Neanderthals in Europe reduces our ability to understand the demise of their species and the impact of the biological and cultural changes that resulted from the spread of anatomically modern humans. In this light, a recently investigated cave in the northern Adriatic region at the border between the Italian Alps and the Great Adriatic Plain provides useful data about the last Neanderthals between 46·0 and 42·1 ky cal b.p. Their subsistence is inferred from zooarchaeological remains and patterns in Middle Palaeolithic lithic technology. Unexpected evidence of the ephemeral use of the cave during the early Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian period shows a change in lithic technology.

     
 

Acheulean technological behaviour in the Middle Pleistocene landscape of Mieso (East-Central Ethiopia), di I. de la Torre, R. Mora, A. Arroyo, A. Benito-Calvo, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 76, November 2014, Pages 1–25

The Mieso valley is a new paleoanthropological sequence located in East-Central Ethiopia. It contains Middle and Upper Pleistocene deposits with fossil and lithic assemblages in stratified deposits. This paper introduces the Middle Pleistocene archaeological sequence, attributed to the late Acheulean. Low density clusters of artefacts suggest short-term use of the landscape by Acheulean hominins. In Mieso 31, one of the excavated assemblages, refit sets indicate fragmentation of the reduction sequences and enable study of the initial stages of biface manufacture. Mieso 7, also a stratified site, is primarily characterized by a small concentration of standardized cleavers, and portrays another dimension of Acheulean technology, that related to final stages of use and discard of large cutting tools. Available radiometric dates place the Mieso Acheulean around 212 ka (thousands of years) ago, which would make this sequence among the latest evidence of the Acheulean in East Africa, in a time span when the Middle Stone Age is already documented in the region.

     
 

The geology and chronology of the Acheulean deposits in the Mieso area (East-Central Ethiopia), di A. Benito-Calvo, D. N. Barfod, L. J. McHenry, I. de la Torre, "Journal of Human Evolution",Volume 76, November 2014, Pages 26–38

This paper presents the Quaternary sequence of the Mieso area of Central-East Ethiopia, located in the piedmont between the SE Ethiopian Escarpment and the Main Ethiopian Rift-Afar Rift transition sector. In this region, a piedmont alluvial plain is terraced at +25 m above the two main fluvial courses, the Mieso and Yabdo Rivers. The piedmont sedimentary sequence is divided into three stratigraphic units separated by unconformities. Mieso Units I and II contain late Acheulean assemblages and a weakly consolidated alluvial sequence, consisting mainly of fine sediments with buried soils and, to a lesser degree, conglomerates. Palaeo-wetland areas were common in the alluvial plain, represented by patches of tufas, stromatolites and clays. At present, the piedmont alluvial surface is preserved mainly on a dark brown soil formed at the top of Unit II. Unit III corresponds to a fluvial deposit overlying Unit II, and is defined by sands, silty clays and gravels, including several Later Stone Age (LSA) occurrences. Three fine-grained tephra levels are interbedded in Unit I (tuffs TBI and TA) and II (tuff CB), and are usually spatially-constrained and reworked. Argon/argon (40Ar/39Ar) dating from tuff TA, an ash deposit preserved in a palustrine environment, yielded an age of 0.212 ± 0.016 Ma (millions of years ago). This date places the top of Unit I in the late Middle Pleistocene, with Acheulean sites below and above tuff TA. Regional correlations tentatively place the base of Unit I around the Early-Middle Pleistocene boundary, Unit II in the late Middle Pleistocene and within the Late Pleistocene, and the LSA occurrences of Unit III in the Late Pleistocene–Holocene.

     
 

Human calcanei from the Middle Pleistocene site of Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain), di A. Pablos, I. Martínez, C. Lorenzo, N. Sala, A. Gracia-Téllez, J. L. Arsuaga, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 76, November 2014, Pages 63–76

The existence of calcanei in the fossil record prior to modern humans and Neandertals is very scarce. This skeletal element is fundamental to understanding the evolution of the morphology of the foot in human evolution. Here we present and metrically and comparatively describe 29 calcaneus remains from the Middle Pleistocene site of Sima de los Huesos (SH) (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). These calcanei belong to 15 individuals (nine adults, two adolescents and four immature individuals). The metric and morphological differences in the calcanei among Middle and Late Pleistocene hominins tend to be subtle. However, the calcanei from SH are broad and robust with large articular surfaces and most significantly, exhibit a very projected sustentaculum tali. A biomechanical and phylogenetic interpretation is proffered to explain the observed morphology of these calcanei. It has been possible to propose tentative sex assignments for the SH calcanei based on size, using methods similar to those used to establish sex from the talus bones from SH. The estimation of stature based on the calcaneus provides a mean of 175.3 cm for males and 160.6 for females, which is similar to that obtained using other skeletal parts from the site. In sum, the SH calcanei are robust with a proportionally long tubercle and a projected sustentaculum tali, which are traits shared by Neandertals.

     
 

Enamel thickness variation of deciduous first and second upper molars in modern humans and Neanderthals, di C. Fornai, S. Benazzi, J. Svoboda, I. Pap, K. Harvati, G. W. Weber, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 76, November 2014, Pages 83–91

Enamel thickness and dental tissue proportions have been recognized as effective taxonomic discriminators between Neanderthal and modern humans teeth. However, most of the research on this topic focused on permanent teeth, and little information is available for the deciduous dentition. Moreover, although worn teeth are more frequently found than unworn teeth, published data for worn teeth are scarce and methods for the assessment of their enamel thickness need to be developed. Here, we addressed this issue by studying the 2D average enamel thickness (AET) and 2D relative enamel thickness (RET) of Neanderthal and modern humans unworn to moderately worn upper first deciduous molars (dm1s) and upper second deciduous molars (dm2s). In particular, we used 3D μCT data to investigate the mesial section for dm1s and both mesial and buccal sections for dm2s. Our results confirmed previous findings of an Neanderthal derived condition of thin enamel, and thinner enamel in dm1s than dm2s in both Neanderthal and modern humans. We demonstrated that the Neanderthal 2D RET indices are significantly lower than those of modern humans at similar wear stages in both dm1s and dm2s (p < 0.05). The discriminant analysis showed that using 2D RET from dm1 and dm2 sections at different wear stages up to 93% of the individuals are correctly classified. Moreover, we showed that the dm2 buccal sections, although non-conventionally used, might have an advantage on mesial sections since they distinguish as well as mesial sections but tend to be less worn. Therefore, the 2D analysis of enamel thickness is suggested as a means for taxonomic discrimination between modern humans and Neanderthal unworn to moderately worn upper deciduous molars.

     
 

Lithics of the Late Middle Palaeolithic: Post MIS 5 technological variability and its implications, "Quaternary International", Volume 350, Pages 1-254 (6 November 2014) - Edited by Huw S. Groucutt and Eleanor M.L. Scerri

- Lithics of the late Middle Palaeolithic: Post MIS 5 technological variability and its implications, di Huw S. Groucutt, Eleanor M.L. Scerri

- First technological comparison of Southern African Howiesons Poort and South Asian Microlithic industries: An exploration of inter-regional variability in microlithic assemblagesOriginal Research Article, di Laura Lewis, Nimal Perera, Michael Petraglia

- Putslaagte 1 (PL1), the Doring River, and the later Middle Stone Age in southern Africa's Winter Rainfall ZoneOriginal Research Article, di Alex Mackay, Alex Sumner, Zenobia Jacobs, Ben Marwick, Kyla Bluff, Matthew Shaw

- Another Mousterian Debate? Bordian facies, chaîne opératoire technocomplexes, and patterns of lithic variability in the western European Middle and Upper Pleistocene, di Gilliane F. Monnier, Kele Missal

- Flake morphologies and patterns of core configuration at the Abric Romaní rock-shelter: A geometric morphometric approach, di Andrea Picin, Manuel Vaquero, Gerd-Christian Weniger, Eudald Carbonell

- Late Middle Palaeolithic surface sites occurring on dated sediment formations in the Thar Desert, di James Blinkhorn

- The role of edge angle maintenance in explaining technological variation in the production of Late Middle Paleolithic bifacial and unifacial tools, di Radu Iovita

- New insights into Final Mousterian lithic production in western Italy, di Stefano Grimaldi, Fabio Santaniello

- Late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial technologies across northwest Europe: Typo-technological variability and trends, di Karen Ruebens

- A Middle Stone Age Paleoscape near the Pinnacle Point caves, Vleesbaai, South Africa, di Simen Oestmo, Benjamin J. Schoville, Jayne Wilkins, Curtis W. Marean

- Sink the Mousterian? Named stone tool industries (NASTIES) as obstacles to investigating hominin evolutionary relationships in the Later Middle Paleolithic Levant, di John J. Shea

- Fragmented reduction processes: Middle Palaeolithic technical behaviour in the Abri du Maras shelter, southeastern France, di Marie-Hélène Moncel, María Gema Chacón, Alice La Porta, Paul Fernandes, Bruce Hardy, Rosalia Gallotti

- Middle Palaeolithic point technology, with a focus on the site of Tor Faraj (Jordan, MIS 3), di Huw S. Groucutt

- The contribution of lithic production systems to the interpretation of Mousterian industrial variability in south-western France: The example of Combe-Grenal (Dordogne, France), di Jean-Philippe Faivre, Emmanuel Discamps, Brad Gravina, Alain Turq, Jean-Luc Guadelli, Michel Lenoir

- Aterian lithic technology and settlement system in the Jebel Gharbi, North-Western Libya di  Enza E. Spinapolice, Elena A.A. Garcea

     
 

European genetic identity may stretch back 36,000 years, di A. Gibbons, "Science-News", 6 November 2014

Europeans carry a motley mix of genes from at least three ancient sources: indigenous hunter-gatherers within Europe, people from the Middle East, and northwest Asians from near the Great Steppe of eastern Europe and central Asia. One high-profile recent study suggested that each genetic component entered Europe by way of a separate migration and that they only came together in most Europeans in the past 5000 years. Now ancient DNA from the fossilized skeleton of a short, dark-skinned, dark-eyed man who lived at least 36,000 years ago along the Middle Don River in Russia presents a different view: This young man had DNA from all three of those migratory groups and so was already “pure European,” says evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev of the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen, who led the analysis. In challenging the multiple migration model, the new genome data, published online today in Science, suggest that Europeans today are the descendants of a very old, interconnected population of hunter-gatherers that had already spread throughout Europe and much of central and western Asia by 36,000 years ago. “What is surprising is this guy represents one of the earliest Europeans, but at the same time he basically contains all the genetic components that you find in contemporary Europeans—at 37,000 years ago,” Willerslev says. (...)

     
 

Palaeolithic settlements discovered in the Nefud Desert, 2 November 2014

The Nefud Desert is an oval depression in the northern Arabian Peninsula, known for its red sand, sudden violent winds, and large crescent-shaped dunes. It is 290 kilometres long, 225 kilometres wide, and sees rain only once or twice a year. But in antiquity, there were lakes. Dr Eleanor Scerri of the University of Bordeaux and her colleagues call them 'palaeo-lakes'. Today these ancient lakes are only sediments and other features that tell us that there was once water, but scientists have also found fossil flora, fauna, and archaeological features and artefacts. Scerri and her colleagues detail their discovery of 13 sites associated with palaeo-lake basins dated to Lower and Middle Palaeolithic times - from 2.5 million all the way to 30,000 years ago. "One of the sites, T'is al Ghadah, may feature the earliest Middle Palaeolithic assemblage of Arabia," they write. (...)

     
  How we tamed ourselves—and became modern, di A. Gibbons, "Science" 24 October 2014: Vol. 346 no. 6208 pp. 405-406

Call a man "tame" or "domesticated" and he's not likely to take it as a compliment. But all of us, male and female, may have to get used to it: At a high-level meeting earlier this month, scientists argued that "self-domestication" was a key process in the evolution of our species. They noted that with our reduced jaws, flat faces, and lower male aggression, humans are to chimps as dogs are to wolves, showing many of the physical traits that emerge during animal domestication. The accompanying changes in behavior, especially among men, might have helped humans evolve more complex language, live atop each other in cities, and work together to create sophisticated cultures. No one set out to domesticate humans, of course. But at the first-ever symposium on self-domestication of humans, held at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, researchers outlined a set of linked behavioral and anatomical changes seen both in animals that humans have tamed and in creatures that have tamed themselves, such as bonobos.

     
  Oldest-known human genome sequenced, di Ewen Callaway, "Nature-News", 22 October 2014

A 45,000-year-old leg bone from Siberia has yielded the oldest genome sequence for Homo sapiens on record — revealing a mysterious population that may once have spanned northern Asia. The DNA sequence from a male hunter-gatherer also offers tanta­li­zing clues about modern humans’ journey from Africa to Europe, Asia and beyond, as well as their sexual encounters with Neanderthals. His kind might have remained unknown were it not for Nikolai Peristov, a Russian artist who carves jewellery from ancient mammoth tusks. In 2008, Peristov was looking for ivory along Siberia’s Irtysh River when he noticed a bone jutting from the riverbank. He dug it out and showed it to a police forensic scientist, who identified it as probably human. The bone turned out to be a human left femur, and eventually made it to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where researchers carbon-dated it. “It was quite fossilized, and the hope was that it might turn out old. We hit the jackpot,” says Bence Viola, a palaeo­anthropologist who co-led the study of the remains. “It was older than any other modern human yet dated.” The luck continued when Viola’s colleagues found that the bone contained well-preserved DNA, and they sequenced its genome to the same accuracy as that achieved for contemporary human genomes (Q. Fu et al.Nature 514, 445–449; 2014). (...)

· Genome sequence of a 45,000-year-old modern human from western Siberia, di Q. Fu et alii, "Nature", 514, 445–449 (23 October 2014)

· La storia dell'uomo raccontata da un femore del Paleolitico, "Le Scienze", 22 ottobre 2014

     
  The discovery of Homo floresiensis: Tales of the hobbit, di E. Callaway, "Nature-News Feature", 22 October 2014

The hobbit team did not set out to find a new species. Instead, the researchers were trying to trace how ancient people travelled from mainland Asia to Australia. At least that was the idea when they began digging in Liang Bua, a large, cool cave in the highlands of Flores in Indonesia. The team was led by archaeologists Mike Morwood and Raden Soejono, who are now deceased. (...)

     
  Human evolution: Small remains still pose big problems, di C. Stringer, "Nature-Comment", 22 October 2014

In early 2004, the Australian palaeoanthropologist Peter Brown teasingly e-mailed me pictures of a strange-looking skull, asking what I thought it was. I knew that he had been working in east Asia, so I guessed that the images might represent the first discovery of a very primitive member of our genus, Homo, from somewhere like China. Gradually, Brown revealed the even more astonishing news of the skull's remote location and recent age. That October, he, Mike Morwood and colleagues published analyses in this journal with the controversial proposal that the tiny skull and its associated skeleton represented a new human species. They named it Homo floresiensis, which Morwood dubbed 'hobbit', owing to its diminutive stature — a moniker that the global press quickly ran with. (...)

     
  Early Pleistocene lake formation and hominin origins in the Turkana–Omo rift, di C. J. Lepre, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 102, 15 October 2014, Pages 181–191

Prior research has correlated the formation of Plio-Pleistocene lakes in East Africa to global/regional climate changes and interpreted the lacustrine basins as significant settings of hominin evolution. Paleo-Lake Lorenyang from the Turkana–Omo rift is important to these issues, as its marginal deposits contain some of, if not the earliest currently known specimens of Acheulian stone tools and African Homo erectus. Magnetostratigraphic and sedimentological evidence indicates that the oldest preserved paleo-Lake Lorenyang deposits are dated at 2.148–2.128 Ma and derive from the NW Turkana basin, predating those from the Omo basin by ∼100 kyr and the NE Turkana basin by ∼190 kyr. Apparently, the lake expanded asynchronously in the rift, potentially due to a volcano-tectonic influence on the location of drainage networks, depositional slopes, or topographic elevation differences within and between the basins at the time of flooding. The onset of the lake temporally coincides with the eruption of basalt lava flows dated to 2.2–2.0 Ma that blocked the southeast outlet of the Turkana basin. This provides a plausible mechanism for hydrologic closure and lacustrine basin formation through volcano-tectonic impounding. It also points to a non-climatic cause for the initial formation of paleo-Lake Lorenyang at ∼2.14 Ma. First appearances for African H. erectus (∼1.87 Ma) and Acheulian tools (∼1.76 Ma) in the Turkana–Omo rift postdate the lake's initial formation by about 270 kyr and 380 kyr, respectively. Such timing differences contrast with studies that correlate all three to the 400-kyr-eccentricity maximum at 1.8 Ma. Although the Turkana–Omo rift is just one example, it does provide alternative insights to views that link climate, hominin evolution, and lake formation in East Africa.

     
  Middle Pleistocene Human Remains from Tourville-la-Rivière (Normandy, France) and Their Archaeological Context, di Jean-Philippe Faivre et alii, "PLOsONE", October 08, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104111 - open access -

Despite numerous sites of great antiquity having been excavated since the end of the 19th century, Middle Pleistocene human fossils are still extremely rare in northwestern Europe. Apart from the two partial crania from Biache-Saint-Vaast in northern France, all known human fossils from this period have been found from ten sites in either Germany or England. Here we report the discovery of three long bones from the same left upper limb discovered at the open-air site of Tourville-la-Rivière in the Seine Valley of northern France. New U-series and combined US-ESR dating on animal teeth produced an age range for the site of 183 to 236 ka. In combination with paleoecological indicators, they indicate an age toward the end of MIS 7. The human remains from Tourville-la-Rivière are attributable to the Neandertal lineage based on morphological and metric analyses. An abnormal crest on the left humerus represents a deltoid muscle enthesis. Micro- and or macro-traumas connected to repetitive movements similar to those documented for professional throwing athletes could be origin of abnormality. (...)

     
 

Early modern human settlement of Europe north of the Alps occurred 43,500 years ago in a cold steppe-type environment, di P. R. Nigst et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences",  October 7, 2014, vol. 111, no. 40, pp. 14394-14399

The first settlement of Europe by modern humans is thought to have occurred between 50,000 and 40,000 calendar years ago (cal B.P.). In Europe, modern human remains of this time period are scarce and often are not associated with archaeology or originate from old excavations with no contextual information. Hence, the behavior of the first modern humans in Europe is still unknown. Aurignacian assemblages—demonstrably made by modern humans—are commonly used as proxies for the presence of fully behaviorally and anatomically modern humans. The site of Willendorf II (Austria) is well known for its Early Upper Paleolithic horizons, which are among the oldest in Europe. However, their age and attribution to the Aurignacian remain an issue of debate. Here, we show that archaeological horizon 3 (AH 3) consists of faunal remains and Early Aurignacian lithic artifacts. By using stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and chronological data, AH 3 is ascribed to the onset of Greenland Interstadial 11, around 43,500 cal B.P., and thus is older than any other Aurignacian assemblage. Furthermore, the AH 3 assemblage overlaps with the latest directly radiocarbon-dated Neanderthal remains, suggesting that Neanderthal and modern human presence overlapped in Europe for some millennia, possibly at rather close geographical range. Most importantly, for the first time to our knowledge, we have a high-resolution environmental context for an Early Aurignacian site in Central Europe, demonstrating an early appearance of behaviorally modern humans in a medium-cold steppe-type environment with some boreal trees along valleys around 43,500 cal B.P.

     
  Tracing our ancestors at the bottom of the sea, October 6, 2014

A new European Marine Board report recommends exploration of sea-submerged settlements abandoned by our ancestors. Researchers are studying the remains of prehistoric human settlements which are now submerged beneath coastal seas. Some of these drowned sites are tens of thousands of years old. (...)

     
  43,000-year-old modern human settlement in Central Europe, 2 October 2014

In 1908 the famous Venus of Willendorf was discovered during an excavation near the Austrian town of Melk. The statuette has been dated to 30,000 years ago, and is one of the world's earliest examples of figurative art. Now a team of archaeologists has dated a number of stone tools recently excavated from the same site to 43,500 years ago, and identified the tools as belonging to the Aurignacian culture, making them significantly older than other known Aurignacian artefacts, which have been found all over Europe. It is agreed that modern humans dispersed into Europe, and began to replace Neanderthals, at least 40,000 years ago. The new research pushes this date back to a time when temperatures north of the Alps were cool. (...)

     
 

Cognitive Requirements for Ochre Use in the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa, di T. Hodgskiss, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 24, Issue 03, October 2014, pp 405-428

Ochre is found at many Middle Stone Age sites and its use is often associated with enhanced mental abilities and symbolism, but the links between the visible uses of ochre and cognition have not been clearly defined. By establishing the technology and processes involved in using ochre, one can determine the skill, knowledge and cognitive abilities required to execute those activities. This is done here by constructing thought-and-action and inferential cognitive sequences for the various ochre activities performed at Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Powder production alone is not an indicator of complex cognitive processes, although some planning, foresight and knowledge of materials is required. Some ochre powder was used in the creation of hafting adhesives which is a cognitively demanding process requiring attention-switching, response inhibition, analogical reasoning and abstract thought. The direct transfer of ochre powder from an ochre piece to a soft material through grinding and rubbing requires some complex thought and action procedures — analogical reasoning and the ability to multi-task and switch attention between activities. Scoring a piece of ochre with a sharp tool does not necessitate enhanced executive functioning. However, some engravings demonstrate intentionality and an awareness of space and symmetry that may imply abstract thought.

     
  A Middle Palaeolithic site in the southern North Sea: investigating the archaeology and palaeogeography of Area 240, di L. Tizzard. A. R. Bicket, J. Benjamin, D. De Loecker, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 29, Issue 7, pages 698–710, October 2014

The potential for Middle Palaeolithic sites to survive beneath the sea in northern latitudes has been established by intensive investigation within Area 240, a marine aggregate licence area situated in the North Sea, 11 km off the coast of Norfolk, England. The fortuitous discovery of bifacial handaxes, and Levallois flakes and cores, led to a major programme of fieldwork and analysis between 2008 and 2013. The artefacts were primarily recovered from Marine Isotope Stage 8/7 floodplain sediments deposited between 250 and 200 ka. It is considered that the hand axes and Levallois products are contemporaneous in geological terms with taphonomically complex sedimentary contexts, as observed in several north-west European sites. The Early Middle Palaeolithic (EMP) lithics have survived multiple phases of glaciation and marine transgression. The investigations confirm that the artefacts are not a ‘chance’ find, but indicate clear relationships to submerged and buried landscapes that, although complex, can be examined in detail using a variety of existing fieldwork and analytical methods. The palaeogeographical context of the finds also offers expanded interpretations of the distribution of EMP hominins in the southern North Sea, not predictable from onshore archaeological records.

     
 

Neanderthals from El Salt (Alcoy, Spain) in the context of the latest Middle Palaeolithic populations from the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, di M. D. Garralda, B. Galván, C. M. Hernández, C. Mallol, J. A. Gómez, B. Maureille, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 75, October 2014, Pages 1–15

We present a bioanthropological study of dental remains recovered from El Salt Middle Palaeolithic site (Alcoy, Alicante, Spain). The dental remains were found in a sedimentary layer representing a calm depositional environment within a freshwater spring system. The corresponding archaeological context comprises a Middle Palaeolithic faunal and lithic assemblage that represents the last documented evidence of human occupation at the site, dating to between 47.2 ± 4.4 and 45.2 ± 3.4 ka (thousands of years ago). This evidence is overlain by an archaeologically sterile deposit dated to 44.7 ± 3.2 ka. Results show that the teeth belong to a single juvenile or young adult individual with morphological and metric features falling within the Neanderthal range of variability, although the considered traits are not taxonomically highly discriminant. The reported fossils are representative of the latest Middle Palaeolithic groups in the region and may be considered in the ongoing debate on the disappearance of Neanderthals and the end of the Middle Palaeolithic.

     
 

New evidence of early Neanderthal disappearance in the Iberian Peninsula, di B. Galván, C. M. Hernández, C. Mallol, N. Mercier, A. Sistiaga, V. Soler, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 75, October 2014, Pages 16–27

The timing of the end of the Middle Palaeolithic and the disappearance of Neanderthals continue to be strongly debated. Current chronometric evidence from different European sites pushes the end of the Middle Palaeolithic throughout the continent back to around 42 thousand years ago (ka). This has called into question some of the dates from the Iberian Peninsula, previously considered as one of the last refuge zones of the Neanderthals. Evidence of Neanderthal occupation in Iberia after 42 ka is now very scarce and open to debate on chronological and technological grounds. Here we report thermoluminescence (TL) and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates from El Salt, a Middle Palaeolithic site in Alicante, Spain, the archaeological sequence of which shows a transition from recurrent to sporadic human occupation culminating in the abandonment of the site. The new dates place this sequence within MIS 3, between ca. 60 and 45 ka. An abrupt sedimentary change towards the top of the sequence suggests a strong aridification episode coinciding with the last Neanderthal occupation of the site. These results are in agreement with current chronometric data from other sites in the Iberian Peninsula and point towards possible breakdown and disappearance of the Neanderthal local population around the time of the Heinrich 5 event. Iberian sites with recent dates (<40 ka) attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic should be revised in the light of these data.

     
 

Change in raw material selection and subsistence behaviour through time at a Middle Palaeolithic site in southern France, di L. Wilson, C. L. Browne, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 75, October 2014, Pages 28–39

We apply a resource selection model to the lithic assemblages from 11 archaeological layers at a Middle Palaeolithic site in southern France, the Bau de l’Aubesier. The model calculates how to weight each of 10 variables in order to best match the proportions of raw materials from various potential sources in the lithic assemblages. We then combine the variables into two sets of five each, those related to the characteristics of the raw materials themselves, and those related to the sources and the terrain around them. Running the model with each subset shows that the terrain variables always provide a better match to raw material use than do the raw material variables taken by themselves, but the best model is always the overall (10-variable) model. This means that terrain is most important in every case, but raw material properties also matter. Comparing the percentage contributions of each subset within the overall model, however, shows a clear change in emphasis in the upper layers versus the lower layers of the site. In the lower six layers, the percent contribution of the terrain variables is always greater than that of the raw material variables, but in the upper five layers the reverse is true: terrain still matters, but raw material becomes more important. We also look at faunal and basic tool typological data, which show a progressive change through time, as smaller prey become more important (and large prey less so), and tools and cores proportionally less abundant in the assemblages in the upper layers. We suggest that these results reflect a change in subsistence strategies at the time of a particularly harsh climate near the end of the Middle Pleistocene, and that hominin groups using this site continued to use this new approach throughout the rest of the Pleistocene.

     
 

A revised chronology for the Grotte Vaufrey (Dordogne, France) based on TT-OSL dating of sedimentary quartz, di M. Hernandez, N. Mercier, J. P. Rigaud, J. P. Texier, F. Delpech, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 75, October 2014, Pages 53–63

Grotte Vaufrey, located in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, is well known for its substantial archaeological sequence containing a succession of Acheulean and Mousterian occupations. While over the last thirty years numerous studies have attempted to outline a detailed chronostratigraphy for this important sequence, the failure to employ a common chronological framework has complicated its interpretation. Here, we aim to resolve these inconsistencies by providing a new chronology for the site based on luminescence dating. To this end, thermally-transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dates were obtained from eight sediment samples distributed throughout the sequence, which, when combined with already available chronological information, produce a new chronostratigraphic model for the site. Our results demonstrate that the Typical Mousterian extends from MIS 7 to MIS 5, while the earliest Acheulean occupation could be associated with MIS 8 and may date to as early as MIS 10. When compared with other regional sequences, the Acheulean levels from the Grotte Vaufrey provide evidence for one of the earliest hominin occupations in southwestern France.

     
 

The pattern of hominin postcranial evolution reconsidered in light of size-related shape variation of the distal humerus, di M. R. Lague, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 75, October 2014, Pages 90–109

Previous research suggests that some hominin postcranial features do not follow a linear path of increasing modernization through geological time. With respect to the distal humerus, in particular, the earliest known hominin specimens are reportedly among the most modern in morphology, while some later humeri appear further removed from the average modern human shape. Although Plio-Pleistocene humeri vary widely in size, previous studies have failed to account for size-related shape variation when making morphometric comparisons. This study reexamines hominin postcranial evolution in light of distal humeral allometry. Using two-dimensional landmark data, the relationship between specimen size and shape among modern humans is quantified using multivariate regression and principal components analysis of size-shape space. Fossils are compared with modern human shapes expected at a given size, as well as with the overall average human shape. The null hypothesis of humeral isometry in modern humans is rejected. Subsequently, if one takes allometry into account, the apparent pattern of hominin humeral evolution does not resemble the pattern described above. All 14 of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin fossils examined here share a similar pattern of shape differences from equivalently-sized modern humans, though they vary in the extent to which these differences are expressed. The oldest specimen in the sample (KNM-KP 271; Australopithecus anamensis) exhibits the least human-like elbow morphology. Similarly primitive morphology characterizes all younger species of Australopithecus as well as Paranthropus robustus. After 2 Ma, a subtly more human-like elbow morphology is apparent among specimens attributed to early Homo, as well as among isolated specimens that may represent either Homo or Paranthropus boisei. This study emphasizes the need to consider size-related shape variation when individual fossil specimens are compared with the average shape of a comparative group, particularly when specimens fall near an extreme of the comparative size distribution.

     
  Genetic and developmental basis for parallel evolution and its significance for hominoid evolution, di P. L. Reno, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 23, Issue 5, pages 188–200, September/October 2014

Greater understanding of ape comparative anatomy and evolutionary history has brought a general appreciation that the hominoid radiation is characterized by substantial homoplasy.1–4 However, little consensus has been reached regarding which features result from repeated evolution. This has important implications for reconstructing ancestral states throughout hominoid evolution, including the nature of the Pan-Homo last common ancestor (LCA). Advances from evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) have expanded the diversity of model organisms available for uncovering the morphogenetic mechanisms underlying instances of repeated phenotypic change. Of particular relevance to hominoids are data from adaptive radiations of birds, fish, and even flies demonstrating that parallel phenotypic changes often use similar genetic and developmental mechanisms. The frequent reuse of a limited set of genes and pathways underlying phenotypic homoplasy suggests that the conserved nature of the genetic and developmental architecture of animals can influence evolutionary outcomes. Such biases are particularly likely to be shared by closely related taxa that reside in similar ecological niches and face common selective pressures. Consideration of these developmental and ecological factors provides a strong theoretical justification for the substantial homoplasy observed in the evolution of complex characters and the remarkable parallel similarities that can occur in closely related taxa. Thus, as in other branches of the hominoid radiation, repeated phenotypic evolution within African apes is also a distinct possibility. If so, the availability of complete genomes for each of the hominoid genera makes them another model to explore the genetic basis of repeated evolution.

     
  Le site paléolithique des Vaugreniers (Le Muy, Var): un nouveau faciès épigravettien ancien dans le sud-est de la France?, di C. Montoya et alii, "Quaternaire", vol. 25/2, 2014, pp. 127-145

Le site de plein air des Vaugreniers (Le Muy, Var) a livré plusieurs témoignages d’occupations du Paléolithique moyen et supérieur en contexte alluvial. Répartis en deux locus, la fouille préventive a mis au jour une petite série moustérienne dans un paléochenal ainsi que deux niveaux épigravettiens datés par 14C AMS (ancien et récent). L ’industrie lithique du niveau épigravettien ancien révèle des caractéristiques techniques inédites dans le sud-est de la France.

     
  Ancient human genome from southern Africa throws light on our origins, September 29, 2014

The skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago in the southernmost tip of Africa tells us about ourselves as humans, and throws some light on our earliest common genetic ancestry. The man's genome was sequenced and shown to be one of the 'earliest diverged' -- oldest in genetic terms -- found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago. (...)

     
  Early Levallois technology and the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Southern Caucasus, di D. S. Adler et alii, "Science", 26 September 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6204 pp. 1609-1613

The Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition (~400,000 to 200,000 years ago) is marked by technical, behavioral, and anatomical changes among hominin populations throughout Africa and Eurasia. The replacement of bifacial stone tools, such as handaxes, by tools made on flakes detached from Levallois cores documents the most important conceptual shift in stone tool production strategies since the advent of bifacial technology more than one million years earlier and has been argued to result from the expansion of archaic Homo sapiens out of Africa. Our data from Nor Geghi 1, Armenia, record the earliest synchronic use of bifacial and Levallois technology outside Africa and are consistent with the hypothesis that this transition occurred independently within geographically dispersed, technologically precocious hominin populations with a shared technological ancestry.

     
  Livre: Manuel de taphonomie, Denys Christiane, Patou-Mathis Marylène (sous la dir.)

La taphonomie est est la science des lois de l'enfouissement. Elle a pour but d'étudier et de reconstituer les étapes de la formation des sites paléontologiques et archéologiques. Discipline en plein essor, elle a su s'entourer de différentes compétences dans les domaines de la géologie, de l'archéologie, de la biologie cette science, essayant de comprendre les agents climatiques, édaphiques, biologiques qui interviennent lors de la fossilisation et de la diagénèse, comme la prédation et les actions du climat, du sol, de l'eau, des racines de plantes, des rongeurs et des insectes. La dégradation de la composition organique et minérale des ossements et de celle de l'ADN, l'altération des outils en pierre, des pollens, des coquilles et des grottes ornées sont également abordées. Premier ouvrage en français consacré à la Taphonomie, avec de nombreux exemples (vertébrés terrestres, mollusques, grottes ornées...) il est destiné aux étudiants et aux chercheurs, mais aussi à tous publics. (...)

     
 

Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans, di I. Lazaridis et alii, "Nature", 513, 409–413 (18 September 2014)

We sequenced the genomes of a ~7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ~8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes1, 2, 3, 4 with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians3, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ~44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

     
 

A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar, di J. Rodríguez-Vidal et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", September 16, 2014, vol. 111, no. 37, pp. 13301-13306

The production of purposely made painted or engraved designs on cave walls—a means of recording and transmitting symbolic codes in a durable manner—is recognized as a major cognitive step in human evolution. Considered exclusive to modern humans, this behavior has been used to argue in favor of significant cognitive differences between our direct ancestors and contemporary archaic hominins, including the Neanderthals. Here we present the first known example of an abstract pattern engraved by Neanderthals, from Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar. It consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into the bedrock of the cave that has remained covered by an undisturbed archaeological level containing Mousterian artifacts made by Neanderthals and is older than 39 cal kyr BP. Geochemical analysis of the epigenetic coating over the engravings and experimental replication show that the engraving was made before accumulation of the archaeological layers, and that most of the lines composing the design were made by repeatedly and carefully passing a pointed lithic tool into the grooves, excluding the possibility of an unintentional or utilitarian origin (e.g., food or fur processing). This discovery demonstrates the capacity of the Neanderthals for abstract thought and expression through the use of geometric forms.

     

Aggiornamento 14 settembre

 
  Earliest evidence for the structure of Homo sapiens populations in Africa, di E. M.L. Scerri, N. A. Drake, R. Jennings, H. S. Groucutt, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 101, 1 October 2014, Pages 207–216

Understanding the structure and variation of Homo sapiens populations in Africa is critical for interpreting multiproxy evidence of their subsequent dispersals into Eurasia. However, there is no consensus on early H. sapiens demographic structure, or its effects on intra-African dispersals. Here, we show how a patchwork of ecological corridors and bottlenecks triggered a successive budding of populations across the Sahara. Using a temporally and spatially explicit palaeoenvironmental model, we found that the Sahara was not uniformly ameliorated between ∼130 and 75 thousand years ago (ka), as has been stated. Model integration with multivariate analyses of corresponding stone tools then revealed several spatially defined technological clusters which correlated with distinct palaeobiomes. Similarities between technological clusters were such that they decreased with distance except where connected by palaeohydrological networks. These results indicate that populations at the Eurasian gateway were strongly structured, which has implications for refining the demographic parameters of dispersals out of Africa.

     
 

Use of Fossil Bryozoans in Sourcing Lithic Artifacts, di M. M. Key Jr., P. N. Wyse Jackson, L. W. Falvey, B. J. Roth, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 29, Issue 5, pages 397–409, September/October 2014

This study reviews the occurrence and potential of bryozoans within lithic artifacts and also sets out a methodology for their use in sourcing and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. We present case studies from our own research and from the literature on using bryozoans in sourcing archaeological lithic artifacts. Fossil bryozoans of different ages and clades can be effectively used to determine the material source of lithic artifacts from a variety of prehistoric ages. The case studies included in this report span the stratigraphic range of bryozoans from the Ordovician to the Neogene. The bryozoans came from four different orders: trepostome, fenestrate, cyclostome, and cheilostome. The use of these lithic artifacts ranged back to 25 ka. Although the majority of the fossil bryozoans were incidental in the artifacts, the bryozoans were still useful for determining their original source rock. The improved searchable online paleontologic databases allow for more efficient use of fossil bryozoans to constrain the stratigraphic and paleogeographic distribution of source outcrops. Although generally underutilized in sourcing prehistoric lithic artifacts, it is clear that by analyzing bryozoans, an increased understanding of the lithologic nature of these materials could be gained by the archaeological community.

     
  A Spring Forward for Hominin Evolution in East Africa, di M. O. Cuthbert, G. M. Ashley, "PLoS ONE", September 10, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107358 - open access -

Groundwater is essential to modern human survival during drought periods. There is also growing geological evidence of springs associated with stone tools and hominin fossils in the East African Rift System (EARS) during a critical period for hominin evolution (from 1.8 Ma). However it is not known how vulnerable these springs may have been to climate variability and whether groundwater availability may have played a part in human evolution. Recent interdisciplinary research at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, has documented climate fluctuations attributable to astronomic forcing and the presence of paleosprings directly associated with archaeological sites. Using palaeogeological reconstruction and groundwater modelling of the Olduvai Gorge paleo-catchment, we show how spring discharge was likely linked to East African climate variability of annual to Milankovitch cycle timescales. Under decadal to centennial timescales, spring flow would have been relatively invariant providing good water resource resilience through long droughts. For multi-millennial periods, modelled spring flows lag groundwater recharge by 100 s to 1000 years. The lag creates long buffer periods allowing hominins to adapt to new habitats as potable surface water from rivers or lakes became increasingly scarce. Localised groundwater systems are likely to have been widespread within the EARS providing refugia and intense competition during dry periods, thus being an important factor in natural selection and evolution, as well as a vital resource during hominin dispersal within and out of Africa. (...)

     
  New high-resolution computed tomography data of the Taung partial cranium and endocast and their bearing on metopism and hominin brain evolution, di R. L. Holloway, D. C. Broadfield, K. J. Carlson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", September 9, 2014 vol. 111 no. 36, pp. 13022-13027

Falk and colleagues [Falk D, Zollikofer CP, Morimoto N, Ponce de León MS (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(22):8467–8470] hypothesized that selective pressures favored late persistence of a metopic suture and open anterior fontanelle early in hominin evolution, and they put an emphasis on the Taung Child (Australopithecus africanus) as evidence for the antiquity of these adaptive features. They suggested three mutually nonexclusive pressures: an “obstetric dilemma,” high early postnatal brain growth rates, and neural reorganization in the frontal cortex. To test this hypothesis, we obtained the first high-resolution computed tomography (CT) data from the Taung hominin. These high-resolution image data and an examination of the hominin fossil record do not support the metopic and fontanelle features proposed by Falk and colleagues. Although a possible remnant of the metopic suture is observed in the nasion–glabella region of the Taung partial cranium (but not along the frontal crest), this character state is incongruent with the zipper model of metopic closure described by Falk and colleagues. Nor do chimpanzee and bonobo endocast data support the assertion that delayed metopic closure in Taung is necessary because of widening (reorganization) of the prefrontal or frontal cortex. These results call into question the adaptive value of delaying metopic closure, and particularly its antiquity in hominin evolution. Further data from hominoids and hominins are required to support the proposed adaptive arguments, particularly an obstetric dilemma placing constraints on neural and cranial development in Australopithecus.

     
  Three-part ancestry for Europeans, di A. Gibbons, "Science" 5 September 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6201 pp. 1106-1107

For years, the favored recipe for making a modern European ​was this: Start with DNA from a hunter-gatherer whose ancestors lived in Europe 45,000 years ago, then add genes from an early farmer who migrated to the continent about 9000 years ago. An extensive study of ancient DNA now points to a third ingredient: blood from an Asian nomad who blew into central Europe perhaps only about 4000 or 5000 years ago. This third major lineage originated somewhere in northwestern Asia, perhaps on the steppes of western Asia or in Eastern Europe. This is a "ghost lineage," because no pureblood member of this group survives today. But whoever these people were, their descendants successfully spread far and wide, for their genes show up not only in Europeans but also in Native Americans, according to a talk by paleogeneticist Johannes Krause of the University of Tübingen in Germany, who spoke at a biomolecular archaeology meeting last week. Those who heard the talk in a packed auditorium at the University of Basel were impressed by the genomic data's high resolution—it is the largest data set of ancient DNA ever presented in a single study—even though some aren't convinced about the exact details.​

     
 

A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar, di J. Rodríguez-Vidal et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", September 2, 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411529111 - open access -

The production of purposely made painted or engraved designs on cave walls—a means of recording and transmitting symbolic codes in a durable manner—is recognized as a major cognitive step in human evolution. Considered exclusive to modern humans, this behavior has been used to argue in favor of significant cognitive differences between our direct ancestors and contemporary archaic hominins, including the Neanderthals. Here we present the first known example of an abstract pattern engraved by Neanderthals, from Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar. It consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into the bedrock of the cave that has remained covered by an undisturbed archaeological level containing Mousterian artifacts made by Neanderthals and is older than 39 cal kyr BP. Geochemical analysis of the epigenetic coating over the engravings and experimental replication show that the engraving was made before accumulation of the archaeological layers, and that most of the lines composing the design were made by repeatedly and carefully passing a pointed lithic tool into the grooves, excluding the possibility of an unintentional or utilitarian origin (e.g., food or fur processing). This discovery demonstrates the capacity of the Neanderthals for abstract thought and expression through the use of geometric forms. (...)

· Neanderthal 'artwork' found in Gibraltar cave, di P. Rincon, BBC news Science & Environment, 1 September 2014

· Neanderthals made some of Europe's oldest art, di E. Callaway "Nature-news", 01 September 2014

· I Neandertal, artisti astratti, di D. Vergano, 01 settembre 2014

· L'arte rupestre astratta dei Neanderthal, "Le Scienze", 2 settembre 2014

     
 

Nuovi artigli-gioiello per i Neandertal, di V. Monastero

Uno studio condotto da un gruppo di ricercatori dell'Università di Ferrara, guidato da Marco Peresani e Matteo Romandini costituisce una prova ulteriore del fatto che i Neandertal fossero dotati di capacità di astrazione e di ragionamento simbolico. I ricercatori hanno studiato l'utilizzo sistematico di artigli di aquila da parte dei Neandertal in Europa, l'ultimo dei quali, risalente a circa 44-48 mila anni fa (Paleolitico medio), rinvenuto nell'estate del 2013 all'interno della Grotta del Rio Secco, sull'altopiano del Pradis (in provincia di Pordenone). Secondo gli studiosi, questi artigli – sette quelli rinvenuti finora in Europa - venivano utilizzati a scopo simbolico. I sei ritrovamenti precedenti erano avvenuti in Francia nelle Grotta di Pech de l'Aze, Gigny, Combe-Grenal e Les Fieux e, in Italia, nella Grotta di Fumane (Veneto). "Gli artigli non avevano né scopi alimentari né economici", spiega Matteo Romandini, archeozoologo e tafonomo dell'Università di Ferrara, co-responsabile dello studio. "Analisi in corso stanno valutando la presenza di tracce che confermino che questi artigli veni usati a scopo di ornamento personale, come fossero gioielli". "Questa scoperta rappresenta un'ulteriore conferma che i Neandertal non si limitassero al semplice soddisfacimento dei loro bisogni alimentari ed economici, ma che avessero sviluppato capacità cognitive", continua. Lo studio, condotto in collaborazione con altre università europee e con il sostegno del Comune di Clauzetto e del Centro di Catalogazione e Restauro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, è stato pubblicato su Plos One. L'immagine mostra una ricostruzione di un Neandertal alla luce delle recenti scoperte.

     
  Découverte d’une occupation néandertalienne en bord de Saône, 01/09/14

Une équipe d’archéologues de l’Inrap fouille, sur prescription de l’État (Drac Rhône-Alpes), un site du Paléolithique moyen à Quincieux, à l’occasion des travaux de l’A466. Après avis de la commission interrégionale de la recherche archéologique, et dans le cadre d’une procédure de « découverte exceptionnelle », le préfet a prolongé la durée d’intervention de cette fouille d’un hectare. (...)

     
 

Musée départemental de Préhistoire de Solutré: Le site majeur du solutréen avec une nouvelle muséographie

     
  Beneath Still Waters - Multistage Aquatic Exploitation of Euryale ferox (Salisb.) during the Acheulian, di N. Goren-Inbar, Y. Melamed, I. Zohar, K. Akhilesh, S. Pappu, "Internet Archaeology", Issue 37, September 2014

Remains of the highly nutritious aquatic plant Fox nut – Euryale ferox Salisb. (Nymphaeaceae) – were found at the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel. Here, we present new evidence for complex cognitive strategies of hominins as seen in their exploitation of E. ferox nuts. We draw on excavated data and on parallels observed in traditional collecting and processing practices from Bihar, India. We suggest that during the early Middle Pleistocene, hominins implemented multistage procedures comprising underwater gathering and subsequent processing (drying, roasting and popping) of E. ferox nuts. Hierarchical processing strategies are observed in the Acheulian lithic reduction sequences and butchering of game at this and other sites, but are poorly understood as regards the exploitation of aquatic plant resources. We highlight the ability of Acheulian hominins to resolve issues related to underwater gathering of E. ferox nuts during the plant's life cycle and to adopt strategies to enhance their nutritive value. (...)

     
  Science, the Media, and Interpretations of Upper Paleolithic Figurines, di A. Nowell, M. L. Chang, "American Anthropologist" Volume 116, Issue 3, pages 562–577, September 2014

Using the recent discovery of the Hohle Fels figurine as a catalyst, in this article we briefly review the history of scholarship regarding Upper Paleolithic figurines that are often referred to as “Venus” figurines. We integrate this review with a critical examination of the assumptions underlying the “Venus hypothesis”—the perspective that these artifacts are best understood as sexual objects—based on the available data from both inside and outside of the field of Paleolithic archaeology. We suggest that interpreting the figurines in a purely sexual context obstructs their objective, scientific study and has unintended social consequences. Following from this, we consider why the Venus hypothesis persists in the popular media and scholarly research despite decades of reflexive critiques. Finally, building on these critiques, we argue for the importance of contextualization in the study of Upper Paleolithic figurines and discuss new approaches to their study.

     
 

Gelada feeding ecology in an intact ecosystem at Guassa, Ethiopia: Variability over time and implications for theropith and hominin dietary evolution, di P. J. Fashing, N. Nguyen, V. V. Venkataraman, J. T. Kerby, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 155, Issue 1, pages 1–16, September 2014

Recent evidence suggests that several extinct primates, including contemporaneous Paranthropus boisei and Theropithecus oswaldi in East Africa, fed largely on grasses and sedges (i.e., graminoids). As the only living primate graminivores, gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) can yield insights into the dietary strategies pursued by extinct grass- and sedge-eating primates. Past studies of gelada diet were of short duration and occurred in heavily disturbed ecosystems. We conducted a long-term study of gelada feeding ecology in an intact Afroalpine ecosystem at Guassa, Ethiopia. Geladas at Guassa consumed ≥56 plant species, ≥20 invertebrate species, one reptile species, and the eggs of one bird species over a 7-year period. The annual diet consisted of 56.8% graminoid parts, 37.8% forb parts, 2.8% invertebrates, and 2.6% other items, although geladas exhibited wide variability in diet across months at Guassa. Edible forbs were relatively scarce at Guassa but were strongly selected for by geladas. Tall graminoid leaf and tall graminoid seed head consumption correlated positively, and underground food item consumption correlated negatively, with rainfall over time. Geladas at Guassa consumed a species-rich diet dominated by graminoids, but unlike geladas in more disturbed habitats also ate a diversity of forbs and invertebrates along with occasional vertebrate prey. Although graminoids are staple foods for geladas, underground food items are important “fallback foods.” We discuss the implications of our study, the first intensive study of the feeding ecology of the only extant primate graminivore, for understanding the dietary evolution of the theropith and hominin putative graminivores, Theropithecus oswaldi and Paranthropus boisei. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:1–16, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

     
 

Neanderthal infant and adult infracranial remains from Marillac (Charente, France), di M. D. Garralda, B. Maureille, B. Vandermeersch, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 155, Issue 1, pages 99–113, September 2014

At the site of Marillac, near the Ligonne River in Marillac-le-Franc (Charente, France), a remarkable stratigraphic sequence has yielded a wealth of archaeological information, palaeoenvironmental data, as well as faunal and human remains. Marillac must have been a sinkhole used by Neanderthal groups as a hunting camp during MIS 4 (TL date 57,600 ± 4,600BP), where Quina Mousterian lithics and fragmented bones of reindeer predominate. This article describes three infracranial skeleton fragments. Two of them are from adults and consist of the incomplete shafts of a right radius (Marillac 24) and a left fibula (Marillac 26). The third fragment is the diaphysis of the right femur of an immature individual (Marillac 25), the size and shape of which resembles those from Teshik-Tash and could be assigned to a child of a similar age. The three fossils have been compared with the remains of other Neanderthals or anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). Furthermore, the comparison of the infantile femora, Marillac 25 and Teshik-Tash, with the remains of several European children from the early Middle Ages clearly demonstrates the robustness and rounded shape of both Neanderthal diaphyses. Evidence of peri-mortem manipulations have been identified on all three bones, with spiral fractures, percussion pits and, in the case of the radius and femur, unquestionable cutmarks made with flint implements, probably during defleshing. Traces of periostosis appear on the fibula fragment and on the immature femoral diaphysis, although their aetiology remains unknown. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:99–113, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

     
 

Ancient human footprints in Ciur-Izbuc Cave, Romania, di D. Webb, M. Robu, O. Moldovan, S. Constantin, B. Tomus, I. Neag, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 155, Issue 1, pages 128–135, September 2014

In 1965, Ciur-Izbuc Cave in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania was discovered to contain about 400 ancient human footprints. At that time, researchers interpreted the footprints to be those of a man, woman and child who entered the cave by an opening which is now blocked but which was usable in antiquity. The age of the prints (≈10–15 ka BP) was based partly on their association with cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) footprints and bones, and the belief that cave bears became extinct near the end of the last ice age. Since their discovery, the human and bear evidence and the cave itself have attracted spelunkers and other tourists, with the result that the ancient footprints are in danger of destruction by modern humans. In an effort to conserve the footprints and information about them and to reanalyze them with modern techiques, Ciur-Izbuc Cave was restudied in summer of 2012. Modern results are based on fewer than 25% of the originally described human footprints, the rest having been destroyed. It is impossible to confirm some of the original conclusions. The footprints do not cluster about three different sizes, and the number of individuals is estimated to be six or seven. Two cases of bears apparently overprinting humans help establish antiquity, and C-14 dates suggest a much greater age than originally thought. Unfortunately, insufficient footprints remain to measure movement variables such as stride length. However, detailed three-dimensional mapping of the footprints does allow a more precise description of human movements within the cave. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:128–135, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

     
 

News from the north-east fringe of Neanderthal Europe: recent work at Khotylevo 1 (Bryansk Oblast, Russia), di  A. Ocherednoi, L. Vishnyatsky, E. Voskresenskaya, P. Nehoroshev, "Antiquity Project Gallery", Issue 341, September 2014

Khotylevo 1, situated on the right bank of the River Desna some 10km north-west of Bryansk (N53o25', E34o07'; Figure 1) is one of the northernmost Middle Palaeolithic (MP) sites in Europe and one of the richest in Eastern Europe. Excavated in the 1960s by F.M. Zavernyaev from the Bryansk Regional Museum, the site yielded thousands of flint artefacts, including numerous bifacial tools associated with a number of stratified contexts (Zavernyaev 1978). The chronology and depositional history of these contexts, however, remained unclear. As a result, in 2009, the Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences resumed fieldwork at Khotylevo 1 and neighbouring MP sites (Betovo and Korshevo). Following publication of the project’s preliminary results (Ocherednoi et al. 2014), we have obtained important new evidence for Khotylevo 1, including AMS radiocarbon dates and some highly diagnostic flint tools, shedding important light on both the age and nature of the MP assemblages. (...)

     
 

New prehistoric sites in the southern Rub’ al-Khali desert, Oman, di J. I. Rose, Y. H. Hilbert, "Antiquity Project Gallery", Issue 341, September 2014

The archaeology of the Rub’ al-Khali desert in Dhofar, southern Oman, is virtually unknown. The exception is a number of lithic scatters on interdunal gravels and at the edges of ancient palaeolakes recorded by geological surveyors in the early 1970s (Pullar 1974). These assemblages have been the fodder for considerable debate. Initially misclassified as North African Aterian (McClure 1994) and Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic (e.g. Dreschler 2007), recent work has shown that they belong to the ‘Nejd Leptolithic’ tradition, a local facies dated to between c. 13 000 and 7000 years ago (Hilbert et al. 2012; Charpentier & Crassard 2013). During winter 2012, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture in Oman commissioned an expedition to Ramlat Fasad, near the modern village of al-Hashman in the southern Rub’ al-Khali, Governorate of Dhofar, to further assess the temporal and geographical extent of past human habitation in this region. (...)

     
 

The Latest Middle Palaeolithic sites in the Middle Nile Valley, di M. Osypińska, P. Osypiński, "Antiquity Project Gallery", Issue 341, September 2014

During survey in 1998–2003, on the left bank of the Nile around Affad in Sudan (Figure 1), many Palaeolithic sites were identified. Testing in 2003 revealed undisturbed surface assemblages of lithic artefacts alongside animal bone remains (Osypinski et al. 2011). Since 2012, a research project run by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences has further investigated these sites, supported by a grant from the Polish National Science Centre (UMO-2011/01/D/HS3/04125) to enable absolute dating using OSL. As well as evidence of flint working, the sites have yielded relics of lightweight organic structures demarcating functionally differentiated zones within these Palaeolithic camps. Mineralised animal bone remains indicate that the ecological niche inhabited and exploited at this time was a wetland on the banks of a river with cyclically rising and subsiding water levels. (...)

     
 

"Antiquity", Volume 088, Issue 341, September 2014

- The arboreal origins of human bipedalism, di S. K.S. Thorpe, J. M. McClymont, R. H. Crompton, p. 906
- Human bipedalism and the importance of terrestriality,
di I. C. Winder, G. C.P. King, M. H. Devès, G. N. Bailey, p. 915
- Unreasonable expectations,
di B. Wood, p. 917
- Ignoring Ardipithecus in an origins scenario for bipedality is…lame,
di T. D. White, C. Owen Lovejoy, G. Suwa, p. 919
- When the ancestors were arboreal,
di B. Senut, p. 921
- Adaptive diversity: from the trees to the ground,
di S. Elton, p. 923
- Putting flesh on to hominin bones,
di S. K.S. Thorpe, J. M. McClymont, R. H. Crompton, p. 924

     
 

The place of the Neanderthals in hominin phylogeny, di S. White, J. A.J. Gowlett, M. Grove, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology",Volume 35, September 2014, Pages 32–50

Debate over the taxonomic status of the Neanderthals has been incessant since the initial discovery of the type specimens, with some arguing they should be included within our species (i.e. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) and others believing them to be different enough to constitute their own species (Homo neanderthalensis). This synthesis addresses the process of speciation as well as incorporating information on the differences between species and subspecies, and the criteria used for discriminating between the two. It also analyses the evidence for Neanderthal–AMH hybrids, and their relevance to the species debate, before discussing morphological and genetic evidence relevant to the Neanderthal taxonomic debate. The main conclusion is that Neanderthals fulfil all major requirements for species status. The extent of interbreeding between the two populations is still highly debated, and is irrelevant to the issue at hand, as the Biological Species Concept allows for an expected amount of interbreeding between species.

     
 

Socio-economic organization of Final Paleolithic societies: New perspectives from an aggregation site in Western France, di N. Naudinot, J. Jacquier, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology",Volume 35, September 2014, Pages 177–189

Overlooked in larger European syntheses for some time, northwestern France now plays an important role in a dynamic research program investigating the very end of the Lateglacial in Western Europe. The discovery of the well-preserved open-air site of La Fosse has allowed for significant advances in our understanding of different aspects of the Younger Dryas-Holocene transition in this region. This homogenous lithic assemblage adds further precision to the Lateglacial chrono-cultural sequence and provides essential new information for investigating techno-economic changes that appeared during this period. A techno-functional study of the lithic material combined with a spatial analysis of artifact distribution provides insights concerning the site’s function. Several lines of evidence also shed light on occupation duration, activities carried out on-site, and the likely composition of the groups who occupied the site. The combination of the above lead us to interpret La Fosse as a large residential site. Following this, we propose a new mobility and land-use model for hunter-gatherer groups from the Younger Dryas-Preboreal transition in which La Fosse functioned as an aggregation site. This model confirms several previous hypotheses emphasizing the logistical character of mobility strategies of these societies. Finally, this scenario adds further details and precision concerning both the status and connections between different groups of sites within a complex socio-economic system.

     
 

A place in time: Situating Chauvet within the long chronology of symbolic behavioral development, di G. von Petzinger, A. Nowell, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 74, September 2014, Pages 37–54

Since the discovery of the Grotte Chauvet (Ardèche, France) in the mid-1990s, there has been a debate regarding the accuracy of assigning this site to the Aurignacian period. The main argument stems from a perceived lack of agreement between the radiocarbon age of the imagery (>32,000 years BP [before present]) and its stylistic complexity and technical sophistication, which some believe are more typical of the later Upper Paleolithic. In this paper we first review the evidence for symbolic behavior among modern humans during the Aurignacian in order to explore the question of whether Chauvet's images are anachronistic. Then, using a database of non-figurative signs found in Paleolithic parietal art, we undertake a detailed comparison between Chauvet's corpus of signs and those found in other French Upper Paleolithic caves. While we conclude that there is substantial evidence to support an Aurignacian date for Grotte Chauvet, we also suggest that it may be time to revisit some of the cultural boundaries that are currently in use in Paleolithic archaeology.

     
 

Technological behaviors in Paleolithic foragers. Testing the role of resharpening in the assemblage organization, di J. I. Morales, J. M. Vergès, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 49, September 2014, Pages 302–316

This paper describes the evaluation, based on archaeological materials, of the role that resharpening plays in the continuum of stone-tool reduction. We define a multi-evidence-based approach that combines use-wear intensity and location, traces that could be related to hafting and the distribution of mineral residue. By combining these methods, we have observed a minimum resharpening ratio of 52% in the selected end-scraper sample. If one takes into account ethnographically obtained information about end-scraper management, this result is an unexpectedly low value. Dynamics of mobility, technological organization and raw material availability causes high variability in the archaeological visibility and characteristics of lithic remains. Our results are in line with a technology organized wholly or partially on the basis of expediency, in which tools are not curated for more than the time taken to complete the activity or the length of the occupation. Tools that were not exhausted were abandoned at the site, leading to recycling behaviors in periodic site reoccupations.

     
 

Short, but repeated Neanderthal visits to Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3, Barcelona, Spain): a combined analysis of tooth microwear patterns and seasonality, di C. Sánchez-Hernández, F. Rivals, R. Blasco, J. Rosell, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 49, September 2014, Pages 317–325

A new approach combining two proxies is presented with the aim to provide valuable data to better understand the patterns of human occupations in Palaeolithic sites. We employed the analysis of tooth microwear patterns combined with an estimation of the seasonality through tooth eruption and wear patterns of the ungulates. Each proxy brings different types of information. The variability in tooth microwear patterns allows for the estimation of the duration of occupational events at a site while the estimation of seasonality permits to situate temporally these events through the year. The research involved four Middle Palaeolithic archaeological levels from Teixoneres Cave (Moià, Spain). The combined analysis allowed for the identification of different patterns of occupation at the site: (1) short seasonal occupations at a single season such as in level IIa at the beginning of the summer and in level IIb in autumn and early winter, (2) repeated seasonal occupations of the site at all seasons such as in the underlying level IIIa, and (3) repeated seasonal settlements at two specific seasons (summer and winter) as in level IIIb. Our results show congruence between the two methods which imply that combined approaches would allow a better knowledge about the occupations that occurred in the cave, in particular about the duration of Neanderthal occupations.

     
 

The role of raw material differences in stone tool shape variation: an experimental assessment, di M. I. Eren, C. I. Roos, B. A. Story, N. von Cramon-Taubadel, S. J. Lycett, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 49, September 2014, Pages 472–487

Lithic raw material differences are widely assumed to be a major determining factor of differences in stone tool morphology seen across archaeological sites, but the security of this assumption remains largely untested. Two different sets of raw material properties are thought to influence artifact form. The first set is internal, and related to mechanical flaking properties. The second set is external, namely the form (size, shape, presence of cortex) of the initial nodule or blank from which flakes are struck. We conducted a replication experiment designed to determine whether handaxe morphology was influenced by raw materials of demonstrably different internal and external properties: flint, basalt, and obsidian. The knapper was instructed to copy a “target” model handaxe, produced by a different knapper, 35 times in each toolstone type (n = 105 handaxes). On each experimental handaxe, 29 size-adjusted (scale-free) morphometric variables were recorded to capture the overall shape of each handaxe in order to compare them statistically to the model. Both Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and a Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) were used to determine if raw material properties were a primary determinate of patterns of overall shape differences across the toolstone groups. The PCA results demonstrated that variation in all three toolstones was distributed evenly around the model target form. The MANOVA of all 29 size-adjusted variables, using two different tests, showed no statistically significant differences in overall shape patterns between the three groups of raw material. In sum, our results show that assuming the primacy of raw material differences as the predominant explanatory factor in stone tool morphology, or variation between assemblages, is unwarranted.

     
 

Correlation of volcanic ash layers between the Early Pleistocene Acheulean sites of Isinya, Kariandusi, and Olorgesailie, Kenya, di H. Durkee, F. H. Brown, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 49, September 2014, Pages 510–517

Olorgesailie, Kariandusi, and Isinya are archeological sites with Acheulean artifacts in or on the flanks of the southern Rift Valley of Kenya. 40Ar/39Ar ages on feldspar from tuffs in the Olorgesailie Formation of 992 ± 39 ka (Member 1), 974 ± 7 ka (Member 5), and 747 ± 6 ka (Member 9), 662 ± 4 ka (Member 10), and 601 ± 3 ka (Member 11) bracket most of the Acheulean sites there. A 40Ar/39 age on a tuff in the Kariandusi sequence is 977 ± 10 ka, and both sites are associated with thick diatomite deposits. No age control has been available for the site of Isinya. Electron microprobe analyses of glass from volcanic ash layers from these sites allow tephrostratigraphic correlations between them. Here we report that samples from Kariandusi below the archeological levels correlate with samples in Member 4 and Member 2 at Olorgesailie (992 ka–974 ka). Samples from a volcanic ash at Isinya above the archeological site correlate with an ash layer in Olorgesailie Member 4, showing that these artifacts are >974 ka, providing the first age control for the artifacts at Isinya. The correlation from Olorgesailie to Kariandusi shows that the diatomites at those sites were deposited at the same time ∼120 km apart but now differ in elevation by ∼700 m. Chemical similarity with obsidians from localities in the Naivasha region suggest that some of the ash layers may originate from that area.

     
 

The Middle Paleolithic site of Cuesta de la Bajada (Teruel, Spain): a perspective on the Acheulean and Middle Paleolithic technocomplexes in Europe, di M. Santonja et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 49, September 2014, Pages 556–571

Here we present a pluridisciplinary study of Cuesta de la Bajada site (Teruel, Spain). Our findings show that the site contains an early Middle Paleolithic assemblage similar to other European early Middle Paleolithic industries, allowing us to evaluate the coexistence of this industrial tradition with the Acheulean technocomplex in southwest Europe. The process of lithic production at Cuesta de la Bajada represents a technology focused on debitage, the application of technical concepts such as ramified production sequences, and the recycling of flakes via the resharpening of tools and exhausted cores. This site was formed around a pond not far from a river and contains remains of large macrofauna other than equids and cervids. Taphonomic analysis highlights the abundance of cut marks on bones, and supports the hypothesis of selective hunting by hominids. The numerical ages derived from the combination of ESR, OSL and AAR dating methods indicate that the archaeological site was very likely formed around the MIS 8-MIS 9. The appearance of Middle Paleolithic industries in Europe could represents the autochthonous development of a technocomplex distinctly different from the Acheulean, characterised by chaînes opératoires of debitage and a progressive increase of Levallois technology and retouched tools. These results suggest that there is a clear coexistence of assemblages with Acheulean and Middle Paleolithic industries during the last third of the Middle Pleistocene at least in the Iberian Peninsula.

     
  Changing Environments and Movements through Transitions: Paleoanthropological and Prehistorical Research in Ethiopia A Tribute to Prof. Mohammed Umer, Edited by David Pleurdeau, Katja Douze and Asfawossen Asrat, "Quaternary International", Volume 343, Pages 1-178 (1 September 2014)

- Changing environments and movements through transitions: Paleoanthropological and Prehistorical Research in Ethiopia: A Tribute to Prof. Mohammed Umer, di K. Douze, A. Asrat, D. Pleurdeau

- Magnetostratigraphic study of the Melka Kunture archaeological site (Ethiopia) and its chronological implications, di E. Tamrat, N. Thouveny, M. Taieb, J.P. Brugal

- Garba XIII (Melka Kunture, Upper Awash, Ethiopia): A new Acheulean site of the late Lower Pleistocene,
di R. Gallotti, J. P. Raynal, D. Geraads, M. Mussi

- Garba III (Melka Kunture, Ethiopia): a MSA site with archaic Homo sapiens remains revisited, di M. Mussi, F. Altamura, R. Macchiarelli, R. T. Melis, E. E. Spinapolice

- A new chrono-cultural marker for the early Middle Stone Age in Ethiopia: The tranchet blow process on convergent tools from Gademotta and Kulkuletti sites,
di K. Douze

- Late Stone Age variability in the Main Ethiopian Rift: New data from the Bulbula River, Ziway–Shala basin, di C. Ménard, F. Bon, A. Dessie, L. Bruxelles, K. Douze, F. X. Fauvelle, L. Khalidi, J. Lesur, R. Mensan

- The Hargeisan revisited: Lithic industries from shelter 7 of Laas Geel, Somaliland and the transition between the Middle and Late Stone Age in the Horn of Africa,
di X. Gutherz, A. Diaz, C. Ménard, F. Bon, K. Douze, V. Léa, J. Lesur, D. Sordoillet

- Stratigraphic and spatial distribution of ochre and ochre processing tools at Porc-Epic Cave, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, di D. E. Rosso, F. d'Errico, J. Zilhão

- Microliths in the Middle and Later Stone Age of eastern Africa: New data from Porc-Epic and Goda Buticha cave sites, Ethiopia,
di A. Leplongeon

- Cultural change or continuity in the late MSA/Early LSA of southeastern Ethiopia? The site of Goda Buticha, Dire Dawa area, di D. Pleurdeau, E. Hovers, Z. Assefa, A. Asrat, O. Pearson, J. J. Bahain, Y. Man Lam

- Survey and explorations of caves in southeastern Ethiopia: Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age archaeology and Holocene rock art,
di Z. Assefa, D. Pleurdeau, F. Duquesnoy, E. Hovers, O. Pearson, A. Asrat, C. T/Tsion, Y. Man Lam

- The advent of herding in the Horn of Africa: New data from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland,
di J. Lesur, E. A. Hildebrand, G. Abawa, X. Gutherz

- Refitting evidence for the stratigraphic integrity of the Kudu Koppie Early to Middle Stone Age site, northern Limpopo Province, South Africa, di T. A. Sumner, K. Kuman

     
  Deglaciation and Human Colonization of Northern Europe, di B. T. Wygal, S. M. Heidenreich, "Journal of World Prehistory", August 2014, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 111-144

Few places worldwide experienced Late Glacial ecological shifts as drastic as those seen in the areas covered by, or adjacent to, the massive ice sheets that blanketed much of the northern hemisphere. Among the most heavily glaciated regions, northern Europe underwent substantial ecological shifts during and after the Last Glacial Maximum. The climatically unstable Pleistocene–Holocene transition repeatedly transformed far-northern Europe, placing it among the last regions to be colonized by Paleolithic societies. As such, it shares paleoenvironmental and archaeological analogues with other once glaciated areas where human populations, entrenched in periglacial environments prior to glacier retreat, spread into newly deglaciated territories. Perhaps most significant for northern Europeans were post-glacial effects of the Younger Dryas and Preboreal periods, as shifts in climate, plant, and animal communities elicited several adaptive responses including innovation, exploration, and the eventual settlement of once glaciated landscapes. This paper is a detailed review of existing archaeological and paleoecological evidence pertaining to the Late Upper Paleolithic of northern Europe, and offers theoretical observations on human colonization models and ecological responses to large-scale stadial and interstadial events.

     
 

Exploring the impact of climate variability during the Last Glacial Maximum on the pattern of human occupation of Iberia, di A. Burke et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 73, August 2014, Pages 35–46

The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was a global climate event, which had significant repercussions for the spatial distribution and demographic history of prehistoric populations. In Eurasia, the LGM coincides with a potential bottleneck for modern humans and may mark the divergence date for Asian and European populations (Keinan et al., 2007). In this research, the impact of climate variability on human populations in the Iberian Peninsula during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) is examined with the aid of downscaled high-resolution (16 × 16 km) numerical climate experiments. Human sensitivity to short time-scale (inter-annual) climate variability during this key time period, which follows the initial modern human colonisation of Eurasia and the extinction of the Neanderthals, is tested using the spatial distribution of archaeological sites. Results indicate that anatomically modern human populations responded to small-scale spatial patterning in climate variability, specifically inter-annual variability in precipitation levels as measured by the standard precipitation index. Climate variability at less than millennial scale, therefore, is shown to be an important component of ecological risk, one that played a role in regulating the spatial behaviour of prehistoric human populations and consequently affected their social networks.

     
  An Experimental Investigation of the Functional Hypothesis and Evolutionary Advantage of Stone-Tipped Spears, di J. Wilkins, B. J. Schoville, K. S. Brown, "PLoS ONE", August 27, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104514 - open access -

Stone-tipped weapons were a significant innovation for Middle Pleistocene hominins. Hafted hunting technology represents the development of new cognitive and social learning mechanisms within the genus Homo, and may have provided a foraging advantage over simpler forms of hunting technology, such as a sharpened wooden spear. However, the nature of this foraging advantage has not been confirmed. Experimental studies and ethnographic reports provide conflicting results regarding the relative importance of the functional, economic, and social roles of hafted hunting technology. The controlled experiment reported here was designed to test the functional hypothesis for stone-tipped weapons using spears and ballistics gelatin. It differs from previous investigations of this type because it includes a quantitative analysis of wound track profiles and focuses specifically on hand-delivered spear technology. Our results do not support the hypothesis that tipped spears penetrate deeper than untipped spears. However, tipped spears create a significantly larger inner wound cavity that widens distally. This inner wound cavity is analogous to the permanent wound cavity in ballistics research, which is considered the key variable affecting the relative ‘stopping power’ or ‘killing power’ of a penetrating weapon. Tipped spears conferred a functional advantage to Middle Pleistocene hominins, potentially affecting the frequency and regularity of hunting success with important implications for human adaptation and life history. (...)

     
  New high-resolution computed tomography data of the Taung partial cranium and endocast and their bearing on metopism and hominin brain evolution, di R. L. Holloway, D. C. Broadfield, K. J. Carlson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", August 25, 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402905111 - open access -

Falk and colleagues [Falk D, Zollikofer CP, Morimoto N, Ponce de León MS (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(22):8467–8470] hypothesized that selective pressures favored late persistence of a metopic suture and open anterior fontanelle early in hominin evolution, and they put an emphasis on the Taung Child (Australopithecus africanus) as evidence for the antiquity of these adaptive features. They suggested three mutually nonexclusive pressures: an “obstetric dilemma,” high early postnatal brain growth rates, and neural reorganization in the frontal cortex. To test this hypothesis, we obtained the first high-resolution computed tomography (CT) data from the Taung hominin. These high-resolution image data and an examination of the hominin fossil record do not support the metopic and fontanelle features proposed by Falk and colleagues. Although a possible remnant of the metopic suture is observed in the nasion–glabella region of the Taung partial cranium (but not along the frontal crest), this character state is incongruent with the zipper model of metopic closure described by Falk and colleagues. Nor do chimpanzee and bonobo endocast data support the assertion that delayed metopic closure in Taung is necessary because of widening (reorganization) of the prefrontal or frontal cortex. These results call into question the adaptive value of delaying metopic closure, and particularly its antiquity in hominin evolution. Further data from hominoids and hominins are required to support the proposed adaptive arguments, particularly an obstetric dilemma placing constraints on neural and cranial development in Australopithecus. (...)

     
  Stone tools point to diversity of traditions among early humans, 23 August 2014

The biggest ever comparative study of stone tools dating to between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago found in the region between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia shows marked differences in the way stone tools were made, reflecting a diversity of cultural traditions. The study identified at least four distinct populations, each relatively isolated from each other with their own different cultural characteristics. Researchers took over 300,000 measurements of stone tools from 17 archaeological sites across North Africa, including the Sahara, and combined the stone tool data with a model of the North African environment during that period which showed that the Sahara was then a patchwork of savannah, grasslands and water, interspersed with desert. They also mapped out known ancient rivers and major lakes. They were then able to draw new inferences on the contexts in which the ancient populations made and used their tools, showing how early populations of modern humans dispersed across the Sahara along the ancient rivers and watercourses. (...)

     
 

The timing and spatiotemporal patterning of Neanderthal disappearance, di T. Higham et alii, "Nature", 512, 306–309 (21 August 2014)

The timing of Neanderthal disappearance and the extent to which they overlapped with the earliest incoming anatomically modern humans (AMHs) in Eurasia are key questions in palaeoanthropology. Determining the spatiotemporal relationship between the two populations is crucial if we are to understand the processes, timing and reasons leading to the disappearance of Neanderthals and the likelihood of cultural and genetic exchange. Serious technical challenges, however, have hindered reliable dating of the period, as the radiocarbon method reaches its limit at ~50,000 years ago. Here we apply improved accelerator mass spectrometry C14 techniques to construct robust chronologies from 40 key Mousterian and Neanderthal archaeological sites, ranging from Russia to Spain. Bayesian age modelling was used to generate probability distribution functions to determine the latest appearance date. We show that the Mousterian ended by 41,030–39,260 calibrated years BP (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. We also demonstrate that succeeding ‘transitional’ archaeological industries, one of which has been linked with Neanderthals (Châtelperronian), end at a similar time. Our data indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals occurred at different times in different regions. Comparing the data with results obtained from the earliest dated AMH sites in Europe, associated with the Uluzzian technocomplex, allows us to quantify the temporal overlap between the two human groups. The results reveal a significant overlap of 2,600–5,400 years (at 95.4% probability). This has important implications for models seeking to explain the cultural, technological and biological elements involved in the replacement of Neanderthals by AMHs. A mosaic of populations in Europe during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition suggests that there was ample time for the transmission of cultural and symbolic behaviours, as well as possible genetic exchanges, between the two groups.

· Riscritta la fine dei Neandertal, di A. Danti, "National Geographic Italia", 21 agosto 2014

     
 

Evolved developmental homeostasis disturbed in LB1 from Flores, Indonesia, denotes Down syndrome and not diagnostic traits of the invalid species Homo floresiensis, di M. Henneberg, R. B. Eckhardt, S. Chavanaves, K. J. Hsü, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", August 19, 2014, vol. 111, no. 33,  pp. 11967-11972 - open access -

Human skeletons from Liang Bua Cave, Flores, Indonesia, are coeval with only Homo sapiens populations worldwide and no other previously known hominins. We report here for the first time to our knowledge the occipitofrontal circumference of specimen LB1. This datum makes it possible to link the 430-mL endocranial volume of LB1 reported by us previously, later confirmed independently by other investigators, not only with other human skeletal samples past and present but also with a large body of clinical data routinely collected on patients with developmental disorders. Our analyses show that the brain size of LB1 is in the range predicted for an individual with Down syndrome (DS) in a normal small-bodied population from the geographic region that includes Flores. Among additional diagnostic signs of DS and other skeletal dysplasiae are abnormally short femora combined with disproportionate flat feet. Liang Bua Cave femora, known only for LB1, match interlimb proportions for DS. Predictions based on corrected LB1 femur lengths show a stature normal for other H. sapiens populations in the region. (...)

· Strong words over a 'Hobbit', di C. Woolston, "Nature-Research highlights", 512, 235 (21 August 2014)

     
 

Land Snails as a Diet Diversification Proxy during the Early Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, di J. Fernández-López de Pablo, E. Badal, C. Ferrer García, A. Martínez-Ortí, A. Sanchis Serra, "PLoS ONE", August 20, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104898 - open access -

Despite the ubiquity of terrestrial gastropods in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological record, it is still unknown when and how this type of invertebrate resource was incorporated into human diets. In this paper, we report the oldest evidence of land snail exploitation as a food resource in Europe dated to 31.3-26.9 ka yr cal BP from the recently discovered site of Cova de la Barriada (eastern Iberian Peninsula). Mono-specific accumulations of large Iberus alonensis land snails (Ferussac 1821) were found in three different archaeological levels in association with combustion structures, along with lithic and faunal assemblages. Using a new analytical protocol based on taphonomic, microX-Ray Diffractometer (DXR) and biometric analyses, we investigated the patterns of selection, consumption and accumulation of land snails at the site. The results display a strong mono-specific gathering of adult individuals, most of them older than 55 weeks, which were roasted in ambers of pine and juniper under 375°C. This case study uncovers new patterns of invertebrate exploitation during the Gravettian in southwestern Europe without known precedents in the Middle Palaeolithic nor the Aurignacian. In the Mediterranean context, such an early occurrence contrasts with the neighbouring areas of Morocco, France, Italy and the Balkans, where the systematic nutritional use of land snails appears approximately 10,000 years later during the Iberomaurisian and the Late Epigravettian. The appearance of this new subsistence activity in the eastern and southern regions of Spain was coeval to other demographically driven transformations in the archaeological record, suggesting different chronological patterns of resource intensification and diet broadening along the Upper Palaeolithic in the Mediterranean basin. (...)

     
  Neanderthals: Bone technique redrafts prehistory, di E. Callaway, "Nature-news", 20 August 2014

Neanderthals and humans lived together in Europe for thousands of years, concludes a timeline based on radiocarbon dates from 40 key sites across Europe. The results1, published today in Nature, may help to end a century-old deadlock over the demise of the Neanderthals and their relationship to humans. The researchers used 196 radiocarbon dates of organic remains to show that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe around 40,000 years ago, but still long after humans arrived in the continent. “Humans and Neanderthals were living contemporaneously for quite some period of time in different parts of Europe,” says Tom Higham, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study. The long overlap provided plenty of time for cultural exchange and interbreeding, he adds. Exactly what happened 30,000–50,000 years ago still vexes archaeologists because the period is right at the limit of accurate radiocarbon dating. The technique is based on measuring the steady loss of radioactive carbon-14 molecules in organic remains. But after 30,000 years, 98% of the isotope is gone and younger carbon molecules are starting to infiltrate bones, making remains seem younger than they are. This means that dates for the final Neanderthals and for the first human occupations of Europe have been unreliable, fomenting the debate. But over the past decade, Higham and his team have developed techniques that provide more accurate readings in bones up to 55,000 years old (see Nature 485, 27–29; 2012). First, they use a chemical pretreatment to remove the contaminating carbon from the collagen in bones, then they measure the minuscule amounts of radiocarbon using a particle accelerator. (...)

     
  Spain tests limited visits to Altamira cave, 6 August 2014

The cave of Altamira in northern Spain contains some of the world's finest examples of Palaeolithic art - bisons, horses and mysterious signs painted and carved into the limestone as much as 22,000 years ago. In 2002, when algae-like mould started to appear on some paintings, the cave was closed to the public, but this year Altamira has been partially reopened. Since late February, five random visitors per week, clad in protective suits, have been allowed inside the cave. However, some scientists who studied Altamira and supported its closure have been upset by this experiment and the possibility of the cave's reopening, regarding both as politically motivated. Altamira was first discovered in 1879 by an amateur botanist and archaeologist, Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, during an exploratory visit with his daughter. For decades, his find was mostly dismissed as fake. But in 1902 a French study confirmed that its striking black-and-red paintings were prehistoric, turning the cave into a major tourism destination. By the 1970s, Altamira was attracting more than 150,000 people per year. The site was closed in 1979, and later reopened to just 8,500 visitors per year. In 2002, the cave was completely closed, and visitors sent to a nearby museum containing an exact replica of part of the cave, including its main chamber. In 2013, the replica cave welcomed 250,000 visitors. The scientists who oppose any kind of reopening argue that the presence of people alters temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels, helping spread microbial colonisation on the walls and ceiling, while the added air currents erode wall and sediment surfaces. Lascaux, in southwestern France, was long ago closed to the public after suffering serious fungal damage. Muriel Mauriac, the curator of Lascaux, said she was following developments at Altamira. "I trust the Spanish authorities will ultimately take the right decision," she said. Both Altamira and Lascaux are on Unesco's list of World Heritage sites.

     
 

The emergence of the acheulean in East Africa – international workshop, Rome, “La Sapienza” University, September 12–13, 201, di M. Mussi, R. Gallotti, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 23, Issue 4, pages 126–127, July/August 2014

     
  Ice age lion figurine: Ancient fragment of ivory belonging to 40,000 year old animal figurine unearthed, July 30, 2014

Archaeologists have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head. (...)
     
  Acheuléen - Moustérien, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 118, Issue 4, Pages 391-478 (September–October 2014)

- Le Mode 1 en Italie entre hétérogénéité et géofacts : le cas de la redéfinition technologique de l’industrie lithique du site de Bel Poggio,
di K. Niang

- Variabilité de l’Acheuléen de plein air entre Rhône et Loire (France), di M. H. Moncel, M. Arzarello, A. Theodoropoulou, Y. Boulio

- Découverte d’une industrie du Paléolithique inférieur en bordure de la commune de Nice, au Vallon obscur à Saint-Isidore, di D. Cauche, S. Khatib, E. Desclaux, L. Combaud

- Frettes (Haute-Saône, France) : un gisement de plein-air du paléolithique moyen, premiers résultats, di A. Lamotte, G. Huguenin, M. Campy, J. L. Deherripont, J. Detrey, D. Morin, H. Corbeaux

     

Aggiornamento 26 luglio

 
 

Human occupation of Iberia prior to the Jaramillo magnetochron (>1.07 Myr), di J. Garcia, K. Martínez, G. Cuenca-Bescós, E. Carbonell, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 98, 15 August 2014, Pages 84–99

The first migration out of Africa undertaken by the genus Homo is documented in Georgia at 1.8 Myr (Dmanisi) and some 0.4 Myr afterwards in the Middle East (’Ubeidiya). However, the debate on when the European continent was populated for the first time remains open. The first human presence in Europe prior to the Jaramillo subchron (1.07–0.99 Myr) is evidenced at Fuente Nueva 3 and Barranco León D (Orce) and at Sima del Elefante (Atapuerca), an occupation that seems to have continued through the Jaramillo at Gran Dolina TD3–4 and TD5 (Atapuerca), at Vallparadís (Barcelona), and up to the Matuyama–Brunhes boundary at Gran Dolina TD6. Even so, those who still defend a ‘short chronology’ espouse an intermittent early population limited to the Mediterranean area, delaying the first occupation until after the Jaramillo. These hypotheses fail to explain what factors were behind the absence of population in Europe prior to this period, bearing in mind that there were populations of hominins at the gates of Europe between 1 and 0.5 Myr before the first archaeological record documented in Western Europe. Paleomagnetic analyses of the archaeological sites are rarely able to detect the Jaramillo subchron due to its short duration, while the radiometric dating methods (U-series/ESR) usually applied are limited in the accuracy they can achieve for the chronologies in question. These limitations make it necessary to depend on the biostratigraphy of small and large mammals to ascertain with precision the time of the first colonization of the continent. Accordingly, in the present article we discuss the chronological data from the older Iberian archaeological sites using biostratigraphic data to establish an archaeological sequence that demonstrates the expansion of the first hominin occupation of Southern Europe prior to Jaramillo.

     
  Neanderthal Origin of the Haplotypes Carrying the Functional Variant Val92Met in the MC1R in Modern Humans, di Q. Ding et alii, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 31, Issue 8, 8 agosto 2014, pp. 1994-2003

Skin color is one of the most visible and important phenotypes of modern humans. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone and its receptor played an important role in regulating skin color. In this article, we present evidence of Neanderthal introgression encompassing the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor gene MC1R. The haplotypes from Neanderthal introgression diverged with the Altai Neanderthal 103.3 ka, which postdates the anatomically modern human–Neanderthal divergence. We further discovered that all of the putative Neanderthal introgressive haplotypes carry the Val92Met variant, a loss-of-function variant in MC1R that is associated with multiple dermatological traits including skin color and photoaging. Frequency of this Neanderthal introgression is low in Europeans (∼5%), moderate in continental East Asians (∼30%), and high in Taiwanese aborigines (60–70%). As the putative Neanderthal introgressive haplotypes carry a loss-of-function variant that could alter the function of MC1R and is associated with multiple traits related to skin color, we speculate that the Neanderthal introgression may have played an important role in the local adaptation of Eurasians to sunlight intensity.

     
  Carnivore activity in the Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca, Spain) hominin sample, di N. Sala, J. L. Arsuaga, I. Martínez, A. Gracia-Téllez, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 97, 1 August 2014, Pages 71–83

The Sima de los Huesos (SH) site is the largest accumulation of human remains from the Middle Pleistocene known to date. Studies in the last two decades have proposed different hypotheses to explain carnivore activity in the SH human sample. This study provides new data in order to test these different interpretations, and therefore to understand the role of the carnivores in site formation at SH. Carnivores are usually not the origin of large accumulations of hominin fossils in the Eurasian record. The results show that marks of carnivore activity in the SH sample appear very infrequently, which we interpret as indicating that carnivore activity was very sporadic at the site. This is in stark contrast with previous studies. The comparison of bone modification patterns at SH to actualistic carnivore data allows us to suggest that bears were likely to have been the carnivore responsible for the modification observed on both human and bear fossils.

     
 

Lithic Microwear Method: Standardisation, Calibration and Innovation, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Edited by Adrian A. Evans, Harry J. Lerner, Danielle A. Macdonald and W. James Stemp, Volume 48, Pages 1-170 (August 2014)

- Standardization, calibration and innovation: a special issue on lithic microwear method, di A. A. Evans, H. Lerner, D. A. Macdonald, W. J. Stemp, P. C. Anderson

- On the importance of blind testing in archaeological science: the example from lithic functional studies, di A. A. Evans

- A review of quantification of lithic use-wear using laser profilometry: a method based on metrology and fractal analysis, di W. J. Stemp

- The application of focus variation microscopy for lithic use-wear quantification, di D. A. Macdonald

- Scanning Electron and Optical Light Microscopy: two complementary approaches for the understanding and interpretation of usewear and residues on stone tools, di A. Borel, A. Ollé, J. M. Vergès, R. Sala

- The use of sequential experiments and SEM in documenting stone tool microwear, di A. Ollé, J. M. Vergès

- Projectile impact fractures and launching mechanisms: results of a controlled ballistic experiment using replica Levallois points, di Radu Iovita, Holger Schönekeß, S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, F. Jäger

- Testing a taphonomic predictive model of edge damage formation with Middle Stone Age points from Pinnacle Point Cave 13B and Die Kelders Cave 1, South Africa, di B. J. Schoville

- Discriminating wild vs domestic cereal harvesting micropolish through laser confocal microscopy, di J. J. Ibáñez, J. E. González-Urquijo, J. Gibaja

- Ground stone use-wear analysis: a review of terminology and experimental methods, di J. L. Adams

- Ground stones: a synthesis of the use-wear approach, di Laure Dubreuil, di D. Savage

- Projectiles and the abuse of the use-wear method in a search for impact, di V. Rots, H. Plisson

- Science and interpretation in microwear studies, di A. L. Van Gijn

     
  Neanderthal Epigenome, di Z. Zorich, "Archaeology Magazine", July/August 2014

Modern humans share some 99.7 percent of our DNA with Neanderthals. They are our closest evolutionary cousins, but the differences between us run deeper than that 0.3 percent. Much of what distinguishes the two groups is actually the result of how and when genes are expressed and regulated—essentially, turned on and off. Similar, or even identical, stretches of DNA can produce vastly different traits, such as longer limbs or smaller brains, depending on how and when certain genes are actively producing protein. The study of these processes is known as epigenetics. (...)
     
 

Temporal labyrinths of eastern Eurasian Pleistocene humans, di X. J. Wu, I. Crevecoeur, W. Liu, S. Xing, E. Trinkaus, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", July 22, 2014, vol. 111 no. 29, pp. 10509-10513

One of the morphological features that has been identified as uniquely derived for the western Eurasian Neandertals concerns the relative sizes and positions of their semicircular canals. In particular, they exhibit a relatively small anterior canal, a relatively larger lateral one, and a more inferior position of the posterior one relative to the lateral one. These discussions have not included full paleontological data on eastern Eurasian Pleistocene human temporal labyrinths, which have the potential to provide a broader context for assessing Pleistocene Homo trait polarities. We present the temporal labyrinths of four eastern Eurasian Pleistocene Homo, one each of Early (Lantian 1), Middle (Hexian 1), and Late (Xujiayao 15) Pleistocene archaic humans and one early modern human (Liujiang 1). The labyrinths of the two earlier specimens and the most recent one conform to the proportions seen among western early and recent modern humans, reinforcing the modern human pattern as generally ancestral for the genus Homo. The labyrinth of Xujiayao 15 is in the middle of the Neandertal variation and separate from the other samples. This eastern Eurasian labyrinthine dichotomy occurs in the context of none of the distinctive Neandertal external temporal or other cranial features. As such, it raises questions regarding possible cranial and postcranial morphological correlates of Homo labyrinthine variation, the use of individual “Neandertal” features for documenting population affinities, and the nature of late archaic human variation across Eurasia.

     
 

Livre: "Représentation de l’intimité féminine" di J.P. Duhard & B. - G. Delluc – Préface Y. Coppens

Un livre entièrement consacré à un sujet aussi spécialisé il fallait oser l'écrire... et le publier ! Un travail et un inventaire minitieux a permis aux auteurs de repertorier pas moins de 241 vulves du paléolithique en France. Gravées, sculptées, dessinées, modelées les auteurs ont rassemblé l'ensemble des représentations quelles soient souvent très schématiques, et parfois assez détaillées.  Avec cet ouvrage, à réserver aux spécialistes de l'art paléolithique, vous saurez ou retrouver ces vulves cachées au fond des infractruosités de la roche, gravés sur un baton percé, sculptées sur un bloc de calcaire. (...)

     
  Evidence of late Gelasian dispersal of African fauna at Coste San Giacomo (Anagni Basin, central Italy): Early Pleistocene environments and the background of early human occupation in Europe, di L. Bellucci, F. Bona, P. Corrado, D. Magri, I. Mazzini, F. Parenti, G. Scardia, R. Sardella, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 96, 15 July 2014, Pages 72–85

Since the late 70s, the Early Pleistocene (Gelasian) site of Coste San Giacomo (Anagni Basin, central Italy) has been known amongst palaeontologists for its diverse vertebrate fauna. During the last 5 years, new excavations and the drilling of a 46-m-deep core have provided novel pieces of information. Palaeomagnetic data, pollen and small vertebrates analyses are presented here for the first time and combined with the updated list of the large vertebrates and ostracod analysis in a multidisciplinary perspective. Large and small mammals, pollen and ostracod analyses have allowed an integrated palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the sedimentary sequence, depicting the evolution of the alluvial plain in the surrounding landscape. Moreover, magnetostratigraphy, pollen and small mammal biochronological data have confirmed the position of the Coste San Giacomo Faunal Unit, focusing the possible age of the mammal assemblage around 2.1 Ma, in a reversed phase before the base of the Olduvai chron. In particular, the occurrence of the large vole Mimomys pliocaenicus has important biochronological significance. The Coste San Giacomo site offers a unique opportunity to investigate the faunal and environmental changes that occurred in Mediterranean Europe during the Early Pleistocene, coinciding with major climatic changes at a global scale. The occurrence of taxa such as Hippopotamus sp. in the assemblage provides evidence of early dispersal events of African taxa prior to the early Homo diffusion into Europe.

     
  The origins and persistence of Homo floresiensis on Flores: biogeographical and ecological perspectives, di R. W. Dennella, J. Louys, H. J. O'Regan, D. M. Wilkinson, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 96, 15 July 2014, Pages 98–107

The finding of archaeological evidence predating 1 Ma and a small hominin species (Homo floresiensis) on Flores, Indonesia, has stimulated much research on its origins and ancestry. Here we take a different approach and examine two key questions – 1) how did the ancestors of H. floresiensis reach Flores and 2) what are the possibilities for estimating the likelihood of hominin persistence for over 1 million years on a small island? With regard to the first question, on the basis of the biogeography we conclude that the mammalian, avian, and reptilian fauna on Flores arrived from a number of sources including Java, Sulawesi and Sahul. Many of the terrestrial taxa were able to float or swim (e.g. stegodons, giant tortoises and the Komodo dragon), while the rodents and hominins probably accidentally rafted from Sulawesi, following the prevailing currents. The precise route by which hominins arrived on Flores cannot at present be determined, although a route from South Asia through Indochina, Sulawesi and hence Flores is tentatively supported on the basis of zoogeography. With regards to the second question, we find the archaeological record equivocal. A basic energetics model shows that a greater number of small-bodied hominins could persist on Flores than larger-bodied hominins (whether H. floresiensis is a dwarfed species or a descendent of an early small-bodied ancestor is immaterial here), which may in part explain their apparent long-term success. Yet the frequent tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in the region would certainly have affected all the taxa on the island, and at least one turnover event is recorded, when Stegodon sondaari became extinct. The question of the likelihood of persistence may be unanswerable until we know much more about the biology of H. floresiensis.

     
  Hominin reactions to herbivore distribution in the Lower Palaeolithic of the Southern Levant, di M. Devès, D. Sturdy, N. Godet, G. C.P. Kinga, G. N. Bailey, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 96, 15 July 2014, Pages 140–160

We explore the relationship between the edaphic potential of soils and the mineral properties of the underlying geology as a means of mapping the differential productivity of different areas of the Pleistocene landscape for large herbivores. These factors strongly control the health of grazing animals irrespective of the particular types of vegetation growing on them, but they have generally been neglected in palaeoanthropological studies in favour of a more general emphasis on water and vegetation, which provide an incomplete picture. Taking the Carmel–Galilee–Golan region as an example, we show how an understanding of edaphic potential provides insight into how animals might have exploited the environment. In order to simplify the analysis, we concentrate on the Lower Palaeolithic period and the very large animals that dominate the archaeofaunal assemblages of this period. Topography and the ability of soils to retain water also contribute to the differential productivity and accessibility of different regions and to patterns of seasonal movements of the animals, which are essential to ensure a supply of healthy fodder throughout the year, especially for large animals such as elephants, which require substantial regions of good grazing and browsing. Other animals migrating in groups have similar needs. The complex topography of the Southern Levant with frequent sudden and severe changes in gradient, and a wide variety of landforms including rocky outcrops, cliffs, gorges, and ridges, places major limits on these patterns of seasonal movements. We develop methods of mapping these variables, based on the geology and our substantial field experience, in order to create a framework of landscape variation that can be compared with the locations and contents of archaeological sites to suggest ways in which early hominins used the variable features of the landscape to target animal prey, and extend the analysis to the consideration of smaller mammals that were exploited more intensively after the disappearance of the elephants. We consider some of the ways in which this regional-scale approach can be further tested and refined, and advocate the development of such studies as an essential contribution to understanding the wider pattern of hominin dispersal.

     
  Having the stomach for it: a contribution to Neanderthal diets?, di L. T. Buck, C. B. Stringer, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 96, 15 July 2014, Pages 161–167

Due to the central position of diet in determining ecology and behaviour, much research has been devoted to uncovering Neanderthal subsistence strategies. This has included indirect studies inferring diet from habitat reconstruction, ethnographic analogy, or faunal assemblages, and direct methods, such as dental wear and isotope analyses. Recently, studies of dental calculus have provided another rich source of dietary evidence, with much potential. One of the most interesting results to come out of calculus analyses so far is the suggestion that Neanderthals may have been eating non-nutritionally valuable plants for medicinal reasons. Here we offer an alternative hypothesis for the occurrence of non-food plants in Neanderthal calculus based on the modern human ethnographic literature: the consumption of herbivore stomach contents.

     
  Il più antico resto umano d’Italia, 14 luglio 2014

Nel sito archeologico di Isernia La Pineta, risalente a circa 600 mila anni fa, è stato rinvenuto un dente di bambino che, allo stato attuale delle ricerche, rappresenta il più antico resto umano della Penisola Italiana. Si tratta di un primo incisivo superiore sinistro da latte di un bambino deceduto all’età di circa 5-6 anni. Il dente mostra caratteristiche particolari che non si ritrovano negli altri reperti rinvenuti in Europa, seppur riconducibili ad un ampio contesto cronologico. Da questi si discosta perché più gracile e meno bombato. (...)

· Il più antico resto umano d’Italia rinvenuto nel sito paleolitico di La Pineta di Isernia grazie agli scavi condotti da Unife e dalla Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Molise, Università degli Studi di Ferrara

     
  RIP for a key Homo species?, di M. Balter, "Science" 11 July 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6193 p. 129

The hominin Homo heidelbergensis, which lived between about 800,000 and 200,000 years ago, has long been considered a candidate for the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans. But the species is controversial, because whereas some researchers think it lived in Europe, Africa, and Asia, others see it as a European species only (and give other names to similar hominins on other continents). At a meeting in the southern French village of Tautavel, where a face and partial skull of this presumed species were found in a nearby cave in 1971, researchers debated its role in human evolution—and whether it actually existed as a discrete species. Resolving the debate is key to understanding the evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens.

     
 

Environmental and Cultural Dynamics in Western and Central Europe during the Upper Pleistocene, "Quaternary International", Edited by Jean-Philip Brugal, Oliver Bignon-Lau and Jean-Christophe Castel, Volume 337, Pages 1-256 (9 July 2014)

- Environment and climate during MIS 7 and their implications for the late Middle Pleistocene hominins: The contribution of Mollet cave, Serinyà, Girona, northeastern Iberian Peninsula, di J. M. López-García, Hugues-Alexandre Blain, R. Julià, J. Maroto

-The ungulate assemblage from layer A9 at Grotta di Fumane, Italy: A zooarchaeological contribution to the reconstruction of Neanderthal ecology, di M. Romandini, N. Nannini, A. Tagliacozzo, M. Peresani

- Possible evidence of mammoth hunting at the Neanderthal site of Spy (Belgium), di M. Germonpré, M. Udrescu, E. Fiers

- Environment during the Middle to Late Palaeolithic transition in southern France: The archaeological sequence of Tournal Cave (Bize-Minervois, France), di P. Magniez, N. Boulbes

- Ungulate biomass fluctuations endured by Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic societies (SW France, MIS 5-3): The contributions of modern analogs and cave hyena paleodemography, di E. Discamps

- Not one but two mammoth hunting strategies in the Gravettian of the Pavlov Hills area (southern Moravia), di A. Brugère

- Weichselian Upper Pleniglacial environmental variability in north-western Europe reconstructed from terrestrial mollusc faunas and its relationship with the presence/absence of human settlements, di O. Moine

- Hunting practices targeting large mammal communities in the Paris Basin in the Upper Palaeolithic, di O. Bignon-Lau

- What about the Broad Spectrum Revolution? Subsistence strategy of hunter–gatherers in Southeast France between 20 and 8 ka BP, di M. Rillardon, J. P. Brugal

- Wood resource exploitation by Cantabrian Late Upper Palaeolithic groups (N Spain) regarding MIS 2 vegetation dynamics, di P. Uzquiano

- Occurrence of whale barnacles in Nerja Cave (Málaga, southern Spain): Indirect evidence of whale consumption by humans in the Upper Magdalenian, di E. Álvarez-Fernández et alii

- Reconstructing carcass processing related to elk (Alces alces) exploitation during the Late Mesolithic: The case of Zamostje 2 (Central Russia), di R. Moubarak-Nahra, J. C. Castel, M. Besse

- The Epipaleolithic of the Caucasus after the Last Glacial Maximum, di L. V. Golovanova, V. B. Doronichev, N. E. Cleghorn, M. A. Koulkova, T. V. Sapelko, M. S. Shackley, Yu. N. Spasovskiy

- Taphonomic implications for the Late Mousterian of South-West Europe at Esquilleu Cave (Spain), di J. Yravedra, A. Gómez-Castanedo

- Sir Arthur Keith's Legacy: Re-discovering a lost collection of human fossils, di I. De Groote, S. M. Bello, R. Kruszynski, T. Compton, C. Stringer

     
  Evolution of early Homo: An integrated biological perspective, di S. C. Antón, R. Potts, L. C. Aiello, "Science", 4 July 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6192

Integration of evidence over the past decade has revised understandings about the major adaptations underlying the origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. Many features associated with Homo sapiens, including our large linear bodies, elongated hind limbs, large energy-expensive brains, reduced sexual dimorphism, increased carnivory, and unique life history traits, were once thought to have evolved near the origin of the genus in response to heightened aridity and open habitats in Africa. However, recent analyses of fossil, archaeological, and environmental data indicate that such traits did not arise as a single package. Instead, some arose substantially earlier and some later than previously thought. From ~2.5 to 1.5 million years ago, three lineages of early Homo evolved in a context of habitat instability and fragmentation on seasonal, intergenerational, and evolutionary time scales. These contexts gave a selective advantage to traits, such as dietary flexibility and larger body size, that facilitated survival in shifting environments.

· Timeline of human origins revised: New synthesis of research links changing environment with Homo's evolutionary adaptability, "ScienceDaily" July 3, 2014

     
 

Dmanisi, un gisement préhistorique unique, Juillet - Août 2014

Le site de Dmanisi est situé dans le Caucase (République de Géorgie), à 85 km au sud-ouest de la ville de Tbilissi et à 1000 mètres d’altitude. Le gisement se trouve sous les ruines d’une ville médiévale, sur un éperon rocheux de presque 100 mètres de haut. Les coulées de lave à l’origine de cette avancée sont parfaitement datées ; c’est ce qui rend le site de Dmanisi incontournable et presque révolutionnaire. (...)

     
  Mandibular development in Australopithecus robustus, di Z. Cofran, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 154, Issue 3, pages 436–446, July 2014

Australopithecus robustus has a distinct mandibular anatomy, with a broad and deep corpus and a tall, relatively upright ramus. How this anatomy arose through development is unknown, as gross mandibular size and shape change have not been thoroughly examined quantitatively in this species. Herein, I investigate A. robustus mandibular growth by comparing its ontogenetic series with a sample of recent humans, examining age-related size variation in 28 linear measurements. Resampling is used to compare the amount of proportional size change occurring between tooth eruption stages in the small and fragmentary A. robustus sample, with that of a more complete human skeletal population. Ontogenetic allometry of corpus robusticity is also assessed with least squares regression. Results show that nearly all measurements experience greater average increase in A. robustus than in humans. Most notably, A. robustus corpus breadth undergoes a spurt of growth before eruption of M1, likely due in part to delayed resorption of the ramus root on the lateral corpus. Between the occlusion of M1 and M2, nearly all dimensions experience greater proportional size change in A. robustus. Nested resampling analysis affirms that this pattern of growth differences between species is biologically significant, and not a mere byproduct of the fossil sample size. Some species differences are likely a function of postcanine megadontia in A. robustus, although the causes of other differences are less clear. This study demonstrates an important role of the postnatal period for mandibular shape development in this species. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:436–446, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

     
  Sound archaeology: terminology, Palaeolithic cave art and the soundscape, di R. Till, "World Archaeology", Volume 46, Issue 3, 2014, pp. 292-304

This article is focused on the ways that terminology describing the study of music and sound within archaeology has changed over time, and how this reflects developing methodologies, exploring the expectations and issues raised by the use of differing kinds of language to define and describe such work. It begins with a discussion of music archaeology, addressing the problems of using the term ‘music’ in an archaeological context. It continues with an examination of archaeoacoustics and acoustics, and an emphasis on sound rather than music. This leads on to a study of sound archaeology and soundscapes, pointing out that it is important to consider the complete acoustic ecology of an archaeological site, in order to identify its affordances, those possibilities offered by invariant acoustic properties. Using a case study from northern Spain, the paper suggests that all of these methodological approaches have merit, and that a project benefits from their integration.

     
  Paleolithic vs. Epipaleolithic fisheries in northern Iberia, di P. Turrero, A. Ardura, E. García-Vázquez, "Quaternary Research", Volume 82, Issue 1, July 2014, Pages 51–55

A comparison of Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic fisheries in NW Iberia shows an overall high trophic level of catch. Freshwater fisheries (and thus their impacts) are ca. 8000 yr older than marine fisheries and have suffered virtually no changes in the region except for the increase in numbers, being focused on two families (Salmonidae, and Anguillidae to a very minor extent). Marine fisheries in the Paleolithic likely had a low impact but rapidly increased in importance, raising the average trophic level of the catch, the number of affected taxa and the proportion of marine to freshwater fisheries with time.

     
 

Taxonomic differences in deciduous upper second molar crown outlines of Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus, di S. E. Bailey et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 72, July 2014, Pages 1–9

A significant number of Middle to Late Pleistocene sites contain primarily (and sometimes only) deciduous teeth (e.g., Grotta del Cavallo, Mezmaiskaya, Blombos). Not surprisingly, there has been a recent renewed interest in deciduous dental variation, especially in the context of distinguishing Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Most studies of the deciduous dentition of fossil hominins have focused on standard metrical variation but morphological (non-metric and morphometric) variation also promises to shed light on long standing taxonomic questions. This study examines the taxonomic significance of the crown outline of the deciduous upper second molar through principal components analysis and linear discriminant analysis. We examine whether or not the crown shape of the upper deciduous second molar separates H. neanderthalensis from H. sapiens and explore whether it can be used to correctly assign individuals to taxa. It builds on previous studies by focusing on crown rather than cervical outline and by including a large sample of geographically diverse recent human populations. Our samples include 17 H. neanderthalensis, five early H. sapiens, and 12 Upper Paleolithic H. sapiens. In addition, we include two Homo erectus specimens in order to evaluate the polarity of crown shape differences observed between H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens. Our results show that crown outline shape discriminates H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis quite well, but does not do well at distinguishing H. erectus from H. sapiens. We conclude that the crown outline shape observed in H. sapiens is a primitive retention and that the skewed shape observed in H. neanderthalensis is a derived condition. Finally, we explore the phylogenetic implications of the results for the H. erectus molars.

     
 

Old stones' song: Use-wear experiments and analysis of the Oldowan quartz and quartzite assemblage from Kanjera South (Kenya), di C. Lemorini et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 72, July 2014, Pages 10–25

Evidence of Oldowan tools by ~2.6 million years ago (Ma) may signal a major adaptive shift in hominin evolution. While tool-dependent butchery of large mammals was important by at least 2.0 Ma, the use of artifacts for tasks other than faunal processing has been difficult to diagnose. Here we report on use-wear analysis of ~2.0 Ma quartz and quartzite artifacts from Kanjera South, Kenya. A use-wear framework that links processing of specific materials and tool motions to their resultant use-wear patterns was developed. A blind test was then carried out to assess and improve the efficacy of this experimental use-wear framework, which was then applied to the analysis of 62 Oldowan artifacts from Kanjera South. Use-wear on a total of 23 artifact edges was attributed to the processing of specific materials. Use-wear on seven edges (30%) was attributed to animal tissue processing, corroborating zooarchaeological evidence for butchery at the site. Use-wear on 16 edges (70%) was attributed to the processing of plant tissues, including wood, grit-covered plant tissues that we interpret as underground storage organs (USOs), and stems of grass or sedges. These results expand our knowledge of the suite of behaviours carried out in the vicinity of Kanjera South to include the processing of materials that would be ‘invisible’ using standard archaeological methods. Wood cutting and scraping may represent the production and/or maintenance of wooden tools. Use-wear related to USO processing extends the archaeological evidence for hominin acquisition and consumption of this resource by over 1.5 Ma. Cutting of grasses, sedges or reeds may be related to a subsistence task (e.g., grass seed harvesting, cutting out papyrus culm for consumption) and/or a non-subsistence related task (e.g., production of ‘twine,’ simple carrying devices, or bedding). These results highlight the adaptive significance of lithic technology for hominins at Kanjera.

     
 

Coalescence and fragmentation in the late Pleistocene archaeology of southernmost Africa, di A. Mackay, B. A. Stewart, B. M. Chase, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 72, July 2014, Pages 26–51

The later Pleistocene archaeological record of southernmost Africa encompasses several Middle Stone Age industries and the transition to the Later Stone Age. Through this period various signs of complex human behaviour appear episodically, including elaborate lithic technologies, osseous technologies, ornaments, motifs and abstract designs. Here we explore the regional archaeological record using different components of lithic technological systems to track the transmission of cultural information and the extent of population interaction within and between different climatic regions. The data suggest a complex set of coalescent and fragmented relationships between populations in different climate regions through the late Pleistocene, with maximum interaction (coalescence) during MIS 4 and MIS 2, and fragmentation during MIS 5 and MIS 3. Coalescent phases correlate with increases in the frequency of ornaments and other forms of symbolic expression, leading us to suggest that population interaction was a significant driver in their appearance.

     
 

Biomechanical strategies for accuracy and force generation during stone tool production, di E. M. Williams, A. D. Gordon, B. G. Richmond, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 72, July 2014, Pages 52–63

Multiple hominin species used and produced stone tools, and the archaeological record provides evidence that stone tool behaviors intensified among later members of the genus Homo. This intensification is widely thought to be the product of cognitive and anatomical adaptations that enabled later Homo taxa to produce stone tools more efficiently relative to earlier hominin species. This study builds upon recent investigations of the knapping motions of modern humans to test whether aspects of our upper limb anatomy contribute to accuracy and/or efficiency. Knapping kinematics were captured from eight experienced knappers using a Vicon motion capture system. Each subject produced a series of Oldowan bifacial choppers under two conditions: with normal wrist mobility and while wearing a brace that reduced wrist extension (∼30°–35°), simulating one aspect of the likely primitive hominin condition. Under normal conditions, subjects employed a variant of the proximal-to-distal joint sequence common to throwing activities: subjects initiated down-swing upper limb motion at the shoulder and proceeded distally, increasing peak linear and angular velocities from the shoulder to the elbow to the wrist. At the wrist, subjects utilized the ‘dart-thrower's arc,’ the most stable plane of radiocarpal motion, during which wrist extension is coupled with radial deviation and flexion with ulnar deviation. With an unrestrained wrist, subjects achieved significantly greater target accuracy, wrist angular velocities, and hand linear velocities compared with the braced condition. Additionally, the modern wrist's ability to reach high degrees of extension (≥28.5°) following strike may decrease risk of carpal and ligamentous damage caused by hyperextension. These results suggest that wrist extension in humans contributes significantly to stone tool-making performance.

     
  Neandertals ate their veggies, their feces reveal, di A. Gibbons, "Science NOW", 25 June 2014

Scientists excavating an archaeological site in southern Spain have finally gotten the real poop on Neandertals, finding that the Caveman Diet for these quintessential carnivores included substantial helpings of vegetables. Using the oldest published samples of human fecal matter, archaeologists have found the first direct evidence that Neandertals in Europe cooked and ate plants about 50,000 years ago. The extinct Neandertals, who lived from about 230,000 to 30,000 years ago, have long been portrayed as uber-carnivores—humans at the top of the food chain who ate mostly meat to fuel their revved-up metabolisms in order to survive in the frigid climes of northern Europe and Asia. This image was based on evidence from butchered meat bones and hunting tools at archaeological sites, as well as from studies of carbon, nitrogen, and other chemicals in the fossilized teeth of Neandertals, which can reveal their diets. But a recent study of starches in the plaque of Neandertal teeth indicated that Neandertals in modern-day Iraq and Belgium ate grasses, tubers, and other plants, and that they also cooked barley grains in Iraq. This view of Neandertals gathering plants and cooking barley porridge challenged the old view that our burly cousins went extinct because they depended too much on meat, whereas versatile modern humans could survive on a broader range of plant and animal foods. But it was still unclear whether vegetables made up a significant part of the European Neandertal diet. (...)

     
 

The Neanderthal Meal: A New Perspective Using Faecal Biomarkers, di A. Sistiaga, C. Mallol, B. Galván, R. Everett Summons, "PlosONE", June 25, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101045 - open access -

Neanderthal dietary reconstructions have, to date, been based on indirect evidence and may underestimate the significance of plants as a food source. While zooarchaeological and stable isotope data have conveyed an image of Neanderthals as largely carnivorous, studies on dental calculus and scattered palaeobotanical evidence suggest some degree of contribution of plants to their diet. However, both views remain plausible and there is no categorical indication of an omnivorous diet. Here we present direct evidence of Neanderthal diet using faecal biomarkers, a valuable analytical tool for identifying dietary provenance. Our gas chromatography-mass spectrometry results from El Salt (Spain), a Middle Palaeolithic site dating to ca. 50,000 yr. BP, represents the oldest positive identification of human faecal matter. We show that Neanderthals, like anatomically modern humans, have a high rate of conversion of cholesterol to coprostanol related to the presence of required bacteria in their guts. Analysis of five sediment samples from different occupation floors suggests that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat, as indicated by high coprostanol proportions, but also had significant plant intake, as shown by the presence of 5β-stigmastanol. This study highlights the applicability of the biomarker approach in Pleistocene contexts as a provider of direct palaeodietary information and supports the opportunity for further research into cholesterol metabolism throughout human evolution. (...)

     
  Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los Huesos, di J. L. Arsuaga et alii, "Science" 20 June 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6190 pp. 1358-1363

Seventeen Middle Pleistocene crania from the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca, Spain) are analyzed, including seven new specimens. This sample makes it possible to thoroughly characterize a Middle Pleistocene hominin paleodeme and to address hypotheses about the origin and evolution of the Neandertals. Using a variety of techniques, the hominin-bearing layer could be reassigned to a period around 430,000 years ago. The sample shows a consistent morphological pattern with derived Neandertal features present in the face and anterior vault, many of which are related to the masticatory apparatus. This suggests that facial modification was the first step in the evolution of the Neandertal lineage, pointing to a mosaic pattern of evolution, with different anatomical and functional modules evolving at different rates.

     
  Il complesso mosaico dei primi europei, "Le Scienze" 20 giugno 2014

L'analisi comparativa di 17 crani risalenti al medio Pleisticene rinvenuti nel sito di Sima de los Huesos, nella Sierra di Atapuerca, in Spagna, rivelano che il quadro delle prime popolazioni europee era molto complesso. Queste popolazioni si sarebbero infatti evolute secondo un modello “ramificato” (cladogenesi), in cui da una popolazione iniziale più primitiva avrebbero avuto origine vari gruppi che si sono poi evoluti indipendentemente. “Ciò che rende unico il sito di Sima de los Huesos è l'accumulo straordinario e senza precedenti di fossili di ominidi; niente di paragonabile è mai stato scoperto per qualsiasi specie estinta di ominidi”, ha detto Juan-Luis Arsuaga dell'Universidad Complutense di Madrid, primo autore dell'articolo pubblicato su “Science” in cui è illustrata la ricerca. Dal 1984, da questo sito sono stati infatti estratti quasi 7000 fossili umani corrispondenti a tutte le parti dello scheletro di almeno 28 individui. La straordinaria collezione comprende 17 crani, molti quasi completi, sei dei quali sono stati descritti per la prima volta nel corso di questo studio. Questi crani eccezionalmente conservati – che appartengono tutti a un'unica Clicca e scopri il significato del termine: popolazione, vissuta circa 430.000 anni fa - mostrano alcune caratteristiche tipiche dei Neanderthal , mentre altre sono associate a ominidi più primitivi. "Il Medio Pleistocene fu un periodo lungo circa mezzo milione di anni durante il quale l'evoluzione degli ominidi non seguì un lento processo di cambiamento, con un solo tipo di ominide che si è evoluto tranquillamente verso il Neanderthal classico", ha detto Arsuaga. Il processo che ha portato ai Neanderthal classici – che avrebbero dominato l'Europa fino all'arrivo dell'uomo anatomicamente moderno – sarebbe stato cioè “a mosaico”, con modificazioni delle varie strutture anatomiche (come l'apparato mandibolare e la teca cranica) in momenti successivi ben distinti e in misura diversa a seconda dei gruppi. E' questo il quadro che emerge dal confronto fra i reperti di Sima de los Huesos e quelli rinvenuti in altri siti. In particolare, mentre la teca cranica sembrerebbe avvicinare gli ominidi di Sima all'Homo heidelbergensis, specie in cui sono inclusi fossili con una morfologia più primitiva rispetto ai Neanderthal della fine medio e tardo Pleistocene, le caratteristiche decisamente neanderthaliane di tutto l'apparato masticatorio, portano in un'altra direzione, dato che nessun fossile di H. heidelbergensis dei diversi siti in cui sono stati rinvenuti presenta nulla di simile. A rendere più complesso lo scenario, l'analisi del DNA mitocondriale recentemente recuperato da uno dei fossili di Sima, mostra differenze genetiche da quello neanderthaliano classico, avvicinandolo piuttosto all'uomo di Denisova, un gruppo arcaico che si è distinto dal lignaggio dei Neanderthal dopo la separazione dai gruppi africani e che ha popolato parte delle regioni euroasiatiche. Secondo gli autori, questi risultati inducono a pensare che quella di Sima de los Huesos sia stata una popolazione vissuta in un momento molto prossimo alla scissione di queste due linee eurasiatiche. Più in generale, sembrano indicare che i fossili di Sima non siano necessariamente alcuni dei “primissimi Neanderthal”: pur essendo sicuramente molto vicini a essi, potrebbero essere uno degli svariati gruppi che, isolati e dispersi, si sono diversificati a partire dagli ominidi più antichi, per rimanere poi vittime di numerosi “incidenti” demografici probabilmente legati alle crisi climatiche che hanno caratterizzato il medio Pleistocene europeo.

· Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los Huesos, di J. L. Arsuaga et alii, "Science", 20 June 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6190 pp. 1358-1363

     
  Nuovi resti di Homo rinvenuti in Dancalia Eritrea, "Le Scienze" 20 giugno 2014

Provengono dalla Dancalia e sono tra i più antichi reperti analizzati con tecnologie d’indagine estremamente avanzate, come la microtomografia in luce di sincrotrone e il micro imaging in risonanza magnetica: sono denti di Homo erectus/ergaster trovati nei siti di Uadi Aalad e Mulhuli Amo, nel corso delle campagne di scavo e ricognizione del Buia International Project, cui la Sapienza partecipa da oltre dieci anni. Nonostante le difficoltà climatiche che caratterizzano la regione, sono circa dieci anni che i ricercatori dell’ateneo e quelli del Museo Nazionale di Storia Naturale di Parigi, dell'Università di Firenze e di altre Istituzioni di ricerca italiane ed internazionali, lavorano in Eritrea per colmare la lacuna di fossili umani dall'Africa nel periodo intorno a un milione di anni. La Missione della Sapienza, coordinata dal paleoantropologo Alfredo Coppa, ha contribuito alla scoperta di una collezione di reperti appartenenti ad Homo ergaster, destinati a riempire di nuove conoscenze proprio questo intervallo di tempo, di cui gli ultimi tre nelle ultime due campagne di scavo di dicembre 2013 e marzo 2014. Il team italiano ha infatti individuato il sito di Mulhuli Amo, a pochi chilometri da quello in cui fu ritrovato il cranio di UA 31, che già ha stupito la comunità scientifica internazionale per le sue peculiari caratteristiche che hanno gettato nuova luce sulla storia evolutiva della nostra specie: in questo nuovo sito, tanto ricco di materiale da essere noto come il “santuario delle amigdale”, sono stati infatti ritrovati alcuni dei reperti di Homo, ora pubblicati sull’ultimo numero della prestigiosa rivista scientifica Journal of Human Evolution.Clicca e scopri il significato del termine: Provengono dalla Dancalia e sono tra i più antichi reperti analizzati con tecnologie d’indagine estremamente avanzate, come la microtomografia in luce di sincrotrone e il micro imaging in risonanza magnetica: sono denti di Homo erectus/ergaster trovati nei siti di Uadi Aalad e Mulhuli Amo, nel corso delle campagne di scavo e ricognizione del Buia International Project, cui la Sapienza partecipa da oltre dieci anni. Nonostante le difficoltà climatiche che caratterizzano la regione, sono circa dieci anni che i ricercatori dell’ateneo e quelli del Museo Nazionale di Storia Naturale di Parigi, dell'Università di Firenze e di altre Istituzioni di ricerca italiane ed internazionali, lavorano in Eritrea per colmare la lacuna di fossili umani dall'Africa nel periodo intorno a un milione di anni. La Missione della Sapienza, coordinata dal paleoantropologo Alfredo Coppa, ha contribuito alla scoperta di una collezione di reperti appartenenti ad Homo ergaster, destinati a riempire di nuove conoscenze proprio questo intervallo di tempo, di cui gli ultimi tre nelle ultime due campagne di scavo di dicembre 2013 e marzo 2014. Il team italiano ha infatti individuato il sito di Mulhuli Amo, a pochi chilometri da quello in cui fu ritrovato il cranio di UA 31, che già ha stupito la comunità scientifica internazionale per le sue peculiari caratteristiche che hanno gettato nuova luce sulla storia evolutiva della nostra specie: in questo nuovo sito, tanto ricco di materiale da essere noto come il “santuario delle amigdale”, sono stati infatti ritrovati alcuni dei reperti di Homo, ora pubblicati sull’ultimo numero della prestigiosa rivista scientifica Journal of Human Evolution. Il contributo scientifico si è incentrato su tre reperti: due incisivi trovati a Uadi Aalad e un molare da Mulhuli-Amo. Lo studio comparato della loro struttura ha rivelato un mosaico di caratteristiche primitive, simili a quelle degli esemplari più antichi dell’Africa orientale (ad esempio, uno smalto di medio spessore, come quella che si trova in Neanderthal), ma anche caratteristiche peculiari, sia a livello della dentina che della cavità pulpare. L'analisi attraverso la risonanza magnetica di uno degli incisivi ha eccezionalmente permesso di visualizzare i micro marcatori periodici dello sviluppo della dentina (linee di Andresen): è stato così possibile stimare il tasso di formazione delle radici di Homo a un milione di anni che sembra coerente con quello della umanità moderna. Questa scoperta dimostra che un modello di accrescimento dentale simile a quello dell’umanità di tipo moderno si era già prodotto intorno ad un milione di anni fa quando il sapiens non era ancora presente. L’analisi delle caratteristiche strutturali e di sviluppo dei tre denti è stata condotta attraverso immagini ad alta risoluzione, presso il Laboratorio di risonanza magnetica nucleare del dipartimento di Fisica della Sapienza, e presso il Sincrotrone Elettra ed il Laboratorio multidisciplinare del Centro internazionale di Fisica teorica (ICTP) di Trieste. Questi importanti risultati aprono nuove prospettive nello studio dell'evoluzione umana nel Pleistocene inferiore: se i fossili africani ad oggi disponibili per questo periodo sono ancora molto rari, la prossima campagna di scavi paleoantropologici nella Dancalia Eritrea, prevista per la fine del 2014, potrebbe fornire ulteriori prove sulle relazioni evolutive tra Homo ergaster e Homo heidelbergensis, l'antenato della moderna umanità. Le ricerche, coordinate da Alfredo Coppa del dipartimento di Scienze ambientali della Sapienza, e condotto da ricercatori delle Università di Barcellona, Bologna, Cambridge, Cosenza, Ferrara, Firenze, Kansas, Padova, Poitiers, Tarragona, Torino, York e del Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini di Roma, del Northern Red Sea Regional Museum di Massawa, del National Museum of Eritrea di Asmara, del Museo Nazionale di Storia Naturale di Parigi, del Multidisciplinary Laboratory, The 'Abdus Salam' International Centre for Theoretical Physics di Trieste, del Sincrotrone Elettra di Trieste, sono state rese possibile grazie al supporto del Governo Eritreo e grazie ai finanziamenti del progetto PRIN del Ministero della ricerca scientifica, di quelli per le missioni archeologiche del Ministero per gli Affari Esteri, dei progetti Grandi Scavi e Awards dell'Università Sapienza di Roma, oltre alla sponsorizzazione del Gruppo Piccini di Perugia.

     
 

Fossils put a new face on the ancestors of Neandertals, di A. Gibbons, "Science NOW", 19 June 2014

Neandertals came into the world face first. Or at least, their lineage did, according to Spanish paleoanthropologists who analyzed 17 ancient skulls from a deep bone pit in the Atapuerca Mountains of northern Spain. The facial bones and teeth of these people, who lived 430,000 years ago, already resemble those of Neandertals, which are known from much younger fossils. Yet the Sima people also still had relatively small brains and other primitive features, suggesting they were very early members of the lineage that eventually gave rise to Neandertals. The analysis offers a detailed look at the murky origins of our closest cousins and has implications for the evolution of key traits such as brain size. Researchers have long debated when and where Neandertals arose. Neandertals stem from the same root as our own ancestors, but the two lineages parted ways sometime in the past 500,000 years or so. Modern humans arose in Africa at least 200,000 years ago, whereas the fossils of Neandertals are found only in Europe and Asia after 230,000 years ago. Between about 200,000 and a million years ago, our view of human origins is blurred—most of the fossils of hominins, or members of the human family, are isolated, fragmentary, or spread widely across Europe, Asia, and Africa. (...)

     
 

Facing a violent past: Evolution of human ancestors' faces a result of need to weather punches during arguments, study suggests, June 9, 2014

An alternative to the previous long-held hypothesis that the evolution of the robust faces of our early ancestors resulted largely from the need to chew hard-to-crush foods such as nuts has been presented by researchers. The prehistoric version of a bar fight -- over women, resources and other slug-worthy disagreements -- are what shaped our facial evolution, new research suggests. (...)

     
 

Maritime route of colonization of Europe, di P. Paschou et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", June 9, 2014, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320811111 - open access -

The Neolithic populations, which colonized Europe approximately 9,000 y ago, presumably migrated from Near East to Anatolia and from there to Central Europe through Thrace and the Balkans. An alternative route would have been island hopping across the Southern European coast. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed genome-wide DNA polymorphisms on populations bordering the Mediterranean coast and from Anatolia and mainland Europe. We observe a striking structure correlating genes with geography around the Mediterranean Sea with characteristic east to west clines of gene flow. Using population network analysis, we also find that the gene flow from Anatolia to Europe was through Dodecanese, Crete, and the Southern European coast, compatible with the hypothesis that a maritime coastal route was mainly used for the migration of Neolithic farmers to Europe. (...)

     
 

Traces of early use of fire found in Spain, 3 June 2014

Early humans who lived in the Cueva Negra (Black Cave) of southeastern Spain about 800,000 years ago used fire, resources, and tools in their environment, according to a report co-authored by Michael Walker and his colleagues at Murcia University. In the face of a cliff overlooking the Quipar river, the rock-shelter was initially explored by archaeologists in 1981, but systematic excavations didn't begin until 1990 when a team led by Walker undertook detailed investigations which continued for 25 seasons. They uncovered 5 metres of sediment containing late Pleistocene finds, including early human teeth, a rich artefact assemblage, and remains of ancient flora and fauna indicating warm, moist environmental conditions. (...)

     
 

Abri Cro-Magnon - Espace muséographique - Visite


Après des dizaines d’années laissé à l’abandon, le fameux abri Cro-Magnon revit enfin ! Nettoyé, débarrassé des constructions qui le délimitaient, l’abri sous-roche de Cro-Magnon, aux Eyzies-de-Tayac, est mis en valeur dans un ensemble muséographique qui permet de comprendre simplement qui était Cro-Magnon, et comment il vivait.  Un abri mis en valeur et qui retrouve, en partie, son aspect originel, avant les constructions du début du XXème siècle. En effet, après la découverte du site (1868) et les fouilles qui ont suivi, le site a progressivement été abandonné, grignoté par les maisons du village. Jusqu’en 2014 l’abri sous roche n’était plus qu’un tout petit surplomb rocheux, uniquement signalé par une plaque. (...)

     
 

Termites in the hominin diet: A meta-analysis of termite genera, species and castes as a dietary supplement for South African robust australopithecines, di J. J. Lesnik, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 71, June 2014, Pages 94–104

Termite foraging by chimpanzees and present-day modern humans is a well-documented phenomenon, making it a plausible hypothesis that early hominins were also utilizing this resource. Hominin termite foraging has been credited by some to be the explanation for the unexpected carbon isotope signatures present in South African hominin teeth, which suggest the diet was different from that of extant non-human great apes, consisting of a significant amount of resources that are not from woody-plants. Grass-eating termites are one potential resource that could contribute to the carbon signature. However, not all termites eat grasses, and in fact, the termites that are most widely consumed by chimpanzees and by many present-day human populations at best have a mixed diet that includes small amounts of grasses. Here I review the ecology of termites and how it affects their desirability as a food resource for hominins, and conduct a meta-analysis of nutritional values for various genera, species and castes from the literature. Termites are very diverse, even within species, and this variability affects both their carbon signatures and nutritional value, hindering generalizations regarding the contribution of termites to the hominin diet. It is concluded here that a combination of soldiers and alates of the genus Macrotermes be used to model the insectivory component of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin diet due to their significant amounts of energy-yielding nutrients and potential role as a critical resource for supporting larger-brained hominins.

     
 

Paléolithique supérieur, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 118, Issue 3, Pages 211-390 (June–August 2014)

- Être ou ne pas être aurignaciens ?… Telle est la question pour les Mégacéros de la grotte Chauvet,
di M. Martin

- Předmostí III : un site pavlovien de la Porte de Moravie (République tchèque, Europe centrale),
di M. Polanská, J. Svoboda, B. Hromadová, S. Sázelová

- Entre esthétique et symbolisme. L’objet gravettien en stéatite de la Grotte Florestan (Grimaldi, Vintimille, Italie),
di G. Malerba, G. Giacobini, G. Onoratini, A. Arellano, P. E. Moullé

- Les objets en ivoire des sépultures gravettiennes de la Barma Grande de Grimaldi (Ligurie, Italie). Étude descriptive et technologique,
di G. Malerba, G. Giacobini

- Un exemple de gestion des géo-ressources au Paléolithique supérieur en moyenne montagne : le Badegoulien de la grotte du Rond-du-Barry (Sinzelles, Polignac, Haute-Loire),
di V. Delvigne, A. Lafarge, P. Fernandes, M. Piboule, J. P. Raynal

- Premières découvertes sur les techniques de fabrication de cordages à partir de rouets (Bâtons-percés). Évidences sur le mobilier et l’art pariétal du Paléolithique supérieur (Magdalénien), di C. Kilgore, E. Gonthier

- Prehistoria de la costa extremo-sur del Perú. Los pescadores arcaicos de la Quebrada de los Burros (10 000–7000 a.P.), D. Lavallée, M. Julien (Eds.). UMIFRE 17, Fondo Éditorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú et Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, CNRS-MAE, Lima (2012)

- Antoine Lourdeau, Peuplements et préhistoire en Amériques, D. Vialou (Ed.). Éditions du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, coll. Documents Préhistoriques, no 28 (2011)

     

Aggiornamento 31 maggio

Their lips are sealed: identifying hard stone, soft stone, and antler hammer direct percussion in Palaeolithic prismatic blade production, di K. Driscoll, M. García-Rojas, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 47, July 2014, Pages 134–141

The present experiment examined the differentiation between hard stone, soft stone, and antler hammer in Upper Palaeolithic direct percussion, prismatic blade production through the experimental knapping by two knappers who were asked to produce a series of medium-sized blades. The use of two knappers in the experiment tested knapper variability in the resultant experimental assemblage. While the majority of the attributes of blades and proximal fragments – including the presence of lipping, platform preparation, bulb presence and prominence, and curvature amongst others – did not vary significantly in regards to which hammer type either knapper used, a number of blade attributes differed, significantly yet weakly, and there was almost no direct correlation between the individual knappers blades and the hammer type they used. This suggests strongly that for a given goal of producing medium-sized blades, this can be accomplished equally well using antler, hard stone, or soft stone hammers, and the resultant blades will be difficult to tell apart. Therefore, based on the results of this series of knapping experiments, we would be hesitant in using the 21 variables tested here to differentiate between blades produced with antler, hard stone, and soft stone hammer types in the archaeological record.

Using Pyrotechnology: Fire-related Features and Activities with a Focus on the African Middle Stone Age, di S. Evjenth Bentsen, "Journal of Archaeological Research", June 2014, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 141-175

Pyrotechnology was important in prehistory and has been a research topic for decades, in particular, the origins of controlled and habitual use of fire. The earliest putative evidence of fire use is from the African sites of Swartkrans (1,500,000–1,000,000 years ago) and Koobi Fora (1,500,000 years ago). In contrast, researchers working with European sites debate whether habitual use of fire occurred before 400,000 years ago. This paper provides a brief introduction to early fire use and then focuses on the African Middle Stone Age. Published evidence on fire use is available for 34 sites in southern Africa. Combustion features yield much evidence about human behavior, not only in regard to technical skills but also concerning social activities. Several activities using fire, symbolic behavior, spatial structuring, and group size in the Middle Stone Age are inferred from bone and lithic data, ash discard, site maintenance, and hearth size. The current status of knowledge on Middle Stone Age pyrotechnology demonstrates the benefits of applying new methodological approaches, facilitates comparisons with earlier and later archaeological periods, and is an important reminder of the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach.

Climate and environments during Marine Isotope Stage 11 in the central Iberian Peninsula: the herpetofaunal assemblage from the Acheulean site of Áridos-1, Madrid, di H. A. Blain et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 94, 15 June 2014, Pages 7–21

The interglacial episodes of the Quaternary Period are currently the focus of a great deal of attention within the scientific community, primarily because they can help us to understand how the climate of the current interglacial may have evolved without human intervention and to assess the impact of these climate changes on ecological systems. In the central Iberian Peninsula, the archaeological site of Áridos-1 (Arganda, Madrid), with numeric dates of 379.7 ± 45 ka obtained by AAR for the upper part of the sedimentological unit of Arganda I, in combination with the evolved state of the small mammals, has been chronologically attributed to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11. Given the diversified faunal assemblages delivered by the 1976 excavations, Áridos-1 is probably one of the best terrestrial candidates for an understanding of the climatic and environmental conditions that prevailed in central Spain during the MIS 11 interglacial. In consequence, the fossil amphibians and squamate reptiles stored in the collections of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional of Madrid have been newly described and quantified in order to apply the mutual climatic range and habitat weighting methods for estimating quantitative data. The Mediterranean climate is shown to have been warmer and wetter than today in central Spain during MIS 11, with the mean annual temperature 1.7 °C higher and mean annual precipitation 223.9 mm higher than at present. The monthly climatic reconstruction shows differences in the distribution of precipitation over the course of the year, with more abundant precipitation during the winter months, at the beginning of spring and at the end of fall (from October to March) and less precipitation than today during the summer months and at the end of spring (from May to August), suggesting stronger rainfall seasonality between winter and summer than currently occurs. Such climate reconstruction is consistent with other European MIS 11 paleoclimatic records. The paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on the herpetofaunal assemblage suggests a patchy landscape with a large representation of dry meadows, scrubland and rocky habitats together with well-evidenced aquatic habitats. Such open environments during a warm and humid forestal period are seen to be connected with the location of the site in a large river valley, where open vegetation would have been partly initiated and certainly maintained by the grazing, browsing, trampling and tree-felling activities of large mammals.

The role of carnivores and their relationship to hominin settlements in the TD6-2 level from Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), di Palmira Saladié et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 93, 1 June 2014, Pages 47–66

Pleistocene level TD6-2 of the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) is the result of anthropogenic accumulation. Hominin groups occupied the cave as a home base, where they brought in, butchered and consumed the carcasses of ungulates and other hominins. In this paper, we reassess the role of carnivores in the formation and/or modification of the assemblage. We employed different methods to explore the scenario in which the TD6-2 assemblage was formed: (1) identifying the actor responsible for tooth marks; (2) determining the frequency of carnivore tooth marks and their distribution; (3) identifying the co-occurrence of modifications (butchering marks and carnivore tooth marks); (4) calculating the percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio. Carnivore tooth marks are scarce, as is the co-occurrence of hominin and carnivore modifications. However, not all tooth marks have been attributed to a particular agent due to the high equifinality between human and carnivore tooth marks. For these reasons, the frequency of tooth marks and the co-occurrence of modifications have been of little help in interpreting the role of carnivores. Axial skeletal remains and the epiphyses of the long bones are in large part missing. The percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio suggest moderate carnivore ravaging activity. Our data indicate that the role of carnivores in TD6-2 seems to have had an impact on the original assemblage after hominins had extracted a large amount of nutrients from the carcasses. Cannibalized hominin remains showed no carnivore tooth marks and have a greater presence of low survival bones compared to ungulate remains. These findings point to a different taphonomic history suggesting that TD6-2 represents a succession of settlements having different characteristics.

Reconstructing the DNA Methylation Maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan, D. Gokhman et alii, "Science", 2 May 2014, Vol. 344, no. 6183, pp. 523-527 

Ancient DNA sequencing has recently provided high-coverage archaic human genomes. However, the evolution of epigenetic regulation along the human lineage remains largely unexplored. We reconstructed the full DNA methylation maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan by harnessing the natural degradation processes of methylated and unmethylated cytosines. Comparing these ancient methylation maps to those of present-day humans, we identified ~2000 differentially methylated regions (DMRs). Particularly, we found substantial methylation changes in the HOXD cluster that may explain anatomical differences between archaic and present-day humans. Additionally, we found that DMRs are significantly more likely to be associated with diseases. This study provides insight into the epigenetic landscape of our closest evolutionary relatives and opens a window to explore the epigenomes of extinct species.

The Cradle of Thought: Growth, Learning, Play and Attachment in Neanderthal Children, di P. Spikins, G. Hitchens, A. Needham, H. Rutherford, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", Volume 33, Issue 2, pages 111–134, May 2014

Childhood is a core stage in development, essential in the acquisition of social, practical and cultural skills. However, this area receives limited attention in archaeological debate, especially in early prehistory. We here consider Neanderthal childhood, exploring the experience of Neanderthal children using biological, cultural and social evidence. We conclude that Neanderthal childhood experience was subtly different from that of their modern human counterparts, orientated around a greater focus on social relationships within their group. Neanderthal children, as reflected in the burial record, may have played a particularly significant role in their society, especially in the domain of symbolic expression. A consideration of childhood informs broader debates surrounding the subtle differences between Neanderthals and modern humans.

Landscape distribution and ecology of Plio-Pleistocene avifaunal communities from Lowermost Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, di K. A. Prassack,  "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 70, Pages 1-72 (May 2014)

Plio-Pleistocene avifaunal communities are used to reconstruct Lowermost Bed II landscapes at the early hominin site of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. These deposits are laterally extensive, have strong chronostratigraphic control, and were excavated using a landscape archaeological approach. Such factors allow for horizontal spatial-correlation of avian communities across the paleolandscape over a geologically short time frame (approximately 65,000 years). Lowermost Bed II avifaunal communities point to an extensive freshwater wetland system across the extent of paleo-Lake Olduvai's eastern margin.

Stratigraphic analysis of the Sterkfontein StW 573 Australopithecus skeleton and implications for its age, di L. Bruxelles, R. J. Clarke, R. Maire, R. Ortega, D. Stratford, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 70, May 2014, Pages 36–48

StW 573, Little Foot, is the most complete Australopithecus skeleton yet discovered, with many of its bones found in their correct anatomical position. Since the discovery of the in situ skeleton in the Silberberg Grotto in 1997, several teams have attempted to date the fossil. This appeared a simple process because several flowstones are inter-bedded in the breccia above and below StW 573. Dating of these flowstones, using U–Pb (uranium-lead) isotope decay techniques, gave younger results than expected from the fauna and stratigraphic position, around 2.2 Ma (millions of years). Our recent stratigraphic, micromorphological and geochemical studies revealed that the stratigraphy is much more complicated than was previously thought, with localized post-depositional processes leading to the creation of voids within the breccia around the skeleton. These voids were then filled by multiple generations of flowstone growth. The research we present here demonstrates that the proposed dates based on the flowstone deposition can give only a minimum age for StW 573 and that the flowstone formation came after, and probably long after, the breccia deposition. If one takes account of the long evolution of these karst fillings, StW 573 appears to be significantly older than 2.2 Ma.

Experimental heat treatment of silcrete implies analogical reasoning in the Middle Stone Age, di L. Wadley, L. C. Prinsloo, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 70, May 2014, Pages 49–60

Siliceous rocks that were not heated to high temperatures during their geological formation display improved knapping qualities when they are subjected to controlled heating. Experimental heat treatment of South African silcrete, using open fires of the kind used during the Middle Stone Age, shows that the process needed careful management, notwithstanding recent arguments to the contrary. Silcrete blocks fractured when heated on the surface of open fires or on coal beds, but were heated without mishap when buried in sand below a fire. Three silcrete samples, a control, a block heated underground with maximum temperature between 400 and 500 °C and a block heated in an open fire with maximum temperature between 700 and 800 °C, were analysed with X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), optical microscopy, and both Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy. The results show that the volume expansion during the thermally induced α- to β-quartz phase transformation and the volume contraction during cooling play a major role in the heat treatment of silcrete. Rapid heating or cooling through the phase transformation at 573 °C will cause fracture of the silcrete. Successful heat treatment requires controlling surface fire temperatures in order to obtain the appropriate underground temperatures to stay below the quartz inversion temperature. Heat treatment of rocks is a transformative technology that requires skilled use of fire. This process involves analogical reasoning, which is an attribute of complex cognition.

Middle Paleolithic and Uluzzian human remains from Fumane Cave, Italy, di S. Benazzi et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 70, May 2014, Pages 61–68

The site of Fumane Cave (western Lessini Mountains, Italy) contains a stratigraphic sequence spanning the Middle to early Upper Paleolithic. During excavations from 1989 to 2011, four human teeth were unearthed from the Mousterian (Fumane 1, 4, 5) and Uluzzian (Fumane 6) levels of the cave. In this contribution, we provide the first morphological description and morphometric analysis of the dental remains. All of the human remains, except for Fumane 6, are deciduous teeth. Based on metric data (crown and cervical outline analysis, and lateral enamel thickness) and non-metric dental traits (e.g., mid-trigonid crest), Fumane 1 (lower left second deciduous molar) clearly belongs to a Neandertal. For Fumane 4 (upper right central deciduous incisor), the taxonomic attribution is difficult due to heavy incisal wear. Some morphological features observed in Fumane 5 (lower right lateral deciduous incisor), coupled with the large size of the tooth, support Neandertal affinity. Fumane 6, a fragment of a permanent molar, does not show any morphological features useful for taxonomic discrimination. The human teeth from Fumane Cave increase the sample of Italian fossil remains, and emphasize the need to develop new methods to extract meaningful taxonomic information from deciduous and worn teeth.

Opportunities, problems and future directions in the study of open-air Middle Paleolithic sites, Edited by Gonen Sharon, Yossi Zaidner and Erella Hovers, "Quaternary International", Volume 331, Pages 1-278 (8 May 2014) 

- Opportunities, problems and future directions in the study of open-air Middle Paleolithic sites, di G. Sharon, Y. Zaidner, E. Hovers

- Chronological and behavioral contexts of the earliest Middle Stone Age in the Gademotta Formation, Main Ethiopian Rift, di Y. Sahle, L. E. Morgan, D. R. Braun, B. Atnafu, W. K. Hutchings

- Sites on the landscape: Paleoenvironmental context of late Pleistocene archaeological sites from the Lake Victoria basin, equatorial East Africa, di C.A. Tryon et alii

- The Eemian Interglacial lake-landscape at Neumark-Nord (Germany) and its potential for our knowledge of hominin subsistence strategies, di S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, L. Kindler, E. Pop, W. Roebroeks, G. Smith

- An open-air site from the recent Middle Palaeolithic in the Paris Basin (France): Les Bossats at Ormesson (Seine-et-Marne), di P. Bodu, H. Salomon, M. Leroyer, H. G. Naton, J. Lacarriere, M. Dessoles

- Paleoenvironmental change and settlement dynamics in the Druze Marsh: Results of recent excavation at an open-air Paleolithic site, di C. J.H. Ames, A. Nowell, C. E. Cordova, J. T. Pokines, M. S. Bisson, 

- Dissecting palimpsests in a Late Lower and Middle Paleolithic flint acquisition site on the Madaba Plateau, Jordan, di M. S. Bisson, A. Nowell, C. Cordova, M. Poupart, C. Ames

- Middle Paleolithic open-air industrial areas in the Galilee, Israel: The challenging study of flint extraction and reduction complexes, di A. Gopher, R. Barkai 

- Geoarchaeological context of the later phases of Mousterian occupation (80–115 ka) at Nesher Ramla, Israel: Soil erosion, deposition and pedogenic processes, di A. Tsatskin, Y. Zaidner

- Taphonomy and paleoecological implications of fossorial microvertebrates at the Middle Paleolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, di L. Weissbrod, Y. Zaidner

- Formation processes and combustion features at the lower layers of the Middle Palaeolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, di D. E. Friesem, Y. Zaidner, R. Shahack-Gross

- Geological setting and age of the Middle Paleolithic site of Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet (Upper Jordan Valley, Israel), di J. Kalbe, G. Sharon, N. Porat, C. Zhang, S. Mischke

- Palynological investigations at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet, Israel, di S. Aharonovich, G. Sharon, M. Weinstein-Evron

- The lithic tool arsenal of a Mousterian hunter, di G. Sharon, M. Oron

- Mousterian intra-site spatial patterning at Quneitra, Golan Heights,
di M. Oron, N. Goren-Inbar

- The stratigraphy and paleogeography of the Middle Paleolithic open-air site of ‘Ein Qashish, Northern Israel, di N. Greenbaum, R. Ekshtain, A. Malinsky-Buller, N. Porat, E. Hovers

- Islands in a stream? Reconstructing site formation processes in the late Middle Paleolithic site of ‘Ein Qashish, northern Israel,
di E. Hovers, R. Ekshtain, N. Greenbaum, A. Malinsky-Buller, N. Nir, R. Yeshurun

- Organization of lithic technology at ‘Ein Qashish, a late Middle Paleolithic open-air site in Israel, di A. Malinsky-Buller, R. Ekshtain, E. Hovers

- Raw material exploitation around the Middle Paleolithic site of ‘Ein Qashish, di R. Ekshtain, A. Malinsky-Buller, S. Ilani, I. Segal, E. Hovers

- Neanderthal settlement patterns during MIS 4–3 in Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain), di M. Navazo, E. Carbonell

La grotte Chauvet, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 118, Issue 2, Pages 115-210 (April–May 2014) 

- Nouvelles recherches sur l’identité culturelle et stylistique de la grotte Chauvet et sur sa datation par la méthode du 4C, di J. Combier, G. Jouve

- Au sujet de l’article de J. Combier et G. Jouve et de la datation de la grotte Chauvet, di M. Lorblanchet

- Chauvet, chronologie et archéologie, di R. de Balbín Behrmann

- Against Chauvet-nism. A critique of recent attempts to validate an early chronology for the art of Chauvet Cave, di P. Pettitt, P. Bahn

- Graphisme et thématique de la Grotte Chauvet, di M. Martin

- Comments and additional remarks on the paper by Jean Combier and Guy Jouve: New investigations into the cultural and stylistic identity of the Chauvet Cave and its radiocarbon dating, di C. Züchner

- Commentaire de l’article de Jean Combier et Guy Jouve : nouvelles recherches sur l’identité culturelle et stylistique de la grotte Chauvet et sur sa datation par la méthode du 14C, di F. Djindjian

- De l’utilisation des isotopes stables du carbone dans la datation par la méthode du radiocarbone, di M. Fontugne et alii

Neandertal Demise: An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex, di P. Villa, W. Roebroeks, April 30, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096424 - open access -

Neandertals are the best-studied of all extinct hominins, with a rich fossil record sampling hundreds of individuals, roughly dating from between 350,000 and 40,000 years ago. Their distinct fossil remains have been retrieved from Portugal in the west to the Altai area in central Asia in the east and from below the waters of the North Sea in the north to a series of caves in Israel in the south. Having thrived in Eurasia for more than 300,000 years, Neandertals vanished from the record around 40,000 years ago, when modern humans entered Europe. Modern humans are usually seen as superior in a wide range of domains, including weaponry and subsistence strategies, which would have led to the demise of Neandertals. This systematic review of the archaeological records of Neandertals and their modern human contemporaries finds no support for such interpretations, as the Neandertal archaeological record is not different enough to explain the demise in terms of inferiority in archaeologically visible domains. Instead, current genetic data suggest that complex processes of interbreeding and assimilation may have been responsible for the disappearance of the specific Neandertal morphology from the fossil record. (...)

Manganese coating of the Tabun faunal assemblage: Implications for modern human behaviour in the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic, di A. B. Marín-Arroyo, M. D. Landete-Ruiz, R. Seva-Román, M. D. Lewis, "Quaternary International", Volume 330, 30 April 2014, Pages 10–18

During the taphonomic and archaeozoological reappraisal of Garrod's material from Tabun Cave (Mount Carmel, Israel) a distinctive dark colouring of bones was observed in the Level C and D assemblages. Based on several geochemical tests, the presence of insoluble manganese oxides in those coatings was confirmed. The origin of this mineral, given the geological context, could be attributed to the decomposition of large quantities of organic matter due to an intensive human occupation of the site in MIS 5. This fact reinforces the hypothesis of the existence of a larger logistic mobility around more permanent residential sites among anatomically modern humans in the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic, which constitutes early evidence of a more complex economic behaviour.

From small bone fragments to Neanderthal activity areas: The case of Level O of the Abric Romaní (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain), di M. J. Gabucio, I. Cáceres, J. Rosell, P. Saladié, J. Vallverdú, "Quaternary International", Volume 330, 30 April 2014, Pages 36–51

Several recent works have suggested that Neanderthal spatial behaviour may have been more complex than previously thought. One of the archaeological sites that has contributed the most data on this issue is the Abric Romaní (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain). This paper focuses on the study of Neanderthal activities related to animal resources that took place in Level O of Abric Romaní, dated to around 55 ka. For this study, all of the faunal remains recovered from the level (including fragments smaller than 2 cm) have been analysed, with special attention paid to their distribution over the surface. Our study has two main goals: firstly, to identify activity areas related to Neanderthal activities and, secondly, to evaluate the information that small bone fragments, which are generally ignored, can provide. Among other results, the methods applied during the course of the study have led to the identification of an accumulation of calcined bones, possibly related to the complementary use of bones as fuel and/or the presence of a systematic toss zone within a hearth. In addition, this work stresses the importance of examining the small faunal remains recovered in archaeological sites, particularly when identifying human activity areas or when assessing the intensity of human activities.

Genomic and cranial phenotype data support multiple modern human dispersals from Africa and a southern route into Asia, H. Reyes-Centeno et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", April 16, 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1323666111 - open access -

Despite broad consensus on Africa as the main place of origin for anatomically modern humans, their dispersal pattern out of the continent continues to be intensely debated. In extant human populations, the observation of decreasing genetic and phenotypic diversity at increasing distances from sub-Saharan Africa has been interpreted as evidence for a single dispersal, accompanied by a series of founder effects. In such a scenario, modern human genetic and phenotypic variation was primarily generated through successive population bottlenecks and drift during a rapid worldwide expansion out of Africa in the Late Pleistocene. However, recent genetic studies, as well as accumulating archaeological and paleoanthropological evidence, challenge this parsimonious model. They suggest instead a “southern route” dispersal into Asia as early as the late Middle Pleistocene, followed by a separate dispersal into northern Eurasia. Here we test these competing out-of-Africa scenarios by modeling hypothetical geographical migration routes and assessing their correlation with neutral population differentiation, as measured by genetic polymorphisms and cranial shape variables of modern human populations from Africa and Asia. We show that both lines of evidence support a multiple-dispersals model in which Australo-Melanesian populations are relatively isolated descendants of an early dispersal, whereas other Asian populations are descended from, or highly admixed with, members of a subsequent migration event. (...) 

· Partenza anticipata dall'Africa per Homo sapiens, di V. Monastero, "National Geographic", 13/5/2014

Patterns of coding variation in the complete exomes of three Neandertals, di S. Castellano et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", April 16, 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405138111 - open access -

We present the DNA sequence of 17,367 protein-coding genes in two Neandertals from Spain and Croatia and analyze them together with the genome sequence recently determined from a Neandertal from southern Siberia. Comparisons with present-day humans from Africa, Europe, and Asia reveal that genetic diversity among Neandertals was remarkably low, and that they carried a higher proportion of amino acid-changing (nonsynonymous) alleles inferred to alter protein structure or function than present-day humans. Thus, Neandertals across Eurasia had a smaller long-term effective population than present-day humans. We also identify amino acid substitutions in Neandertals and present-day humans that may underlie phenotypic differences between the two groups. We find that genes involved in skeletal morphology have changed more in the lineage leading to Neandertals than in the ancestral lineage common to archaic and modern humans, whereas genes involved in behavior and pigmentation have changed more on the modern human lineage. (...)

· I Neandertal vivevano in piccoli gruppi isolati, di D. Vergano, "National Geographic", 23 aprile 2014

How to build a Neanderthal, di E. Callaway, "Nature - News", 17 April 2014

The DNA sequences of Neanderthals and other extinct human relatives have exposed lost migrations, sexual escapades and even new species. Now, researchers have uncovered another molecular clue lurking in the bones of long-dead humans: the so-called 'epigenetic' chemical modifications that adorn DNA and orchestrate gene activity. Epigenomes of two archaic humans — a Neanderthal and a Denisovan, groups that lived in Europe and Asia until around 30,000 years ago — are revealed today in Science1. The report follows on the publication in December of a similar map from another group analysing epigenetic modifications in a 4,000-year-old native of Greenland. Epigenetic differences between humans and their ancient relatives may explain differences in physical traits, or phenotypes, such as the jutting brow ridge of Neanderthals. Yet various obstacles still hinder the study of ancient epigenomes, and some researchers are not yet sure if the approach will yield insights. (...)

Humans and Neandertals interbred, new method confirms, April 8, 2014

Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a new genome analysis method. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples. (...)

Farndon Fields, Nottinghamshire: in situ multi-phased Late Upper Palaeolithic activity on the floodplain, di M. Grant, P. Harding, "The Past - Newsletter of The Prehistoric Society", aprile 2014, n. 76

In 2009, a Cotswold Wessex Archaeology joint venture undertook the archaeological works along the 28km upgrade of the A46 trunk road between Newark-on-Trent and  Widmerpool, Nottinghamshire. Part of this work impacted upon the important Late Upper Palaeolithic (LUP) site of  Farndon Fields which lies just south of Newark near the  confluence of the river Devon with the Trent. (...)

"Traces in time", 4-2014

- Macro and microscopic wear analysis of the non-worked lateral edge of a large biface, di A. Zupancich, T. Proffitt

- Glossy tools innovations in the method of interpretations of use-wear produced by plant processing, di D. D'Errico

Symbolic or Utilitarian? Juggling interpretations of neanderthal behavior: new inferences from the study of engraved stone surfaces, di M. Peresani et alii, "Jass - Journal of Anthropological Sciences Vol. 92 (2014), pp. 233-255 - open access -

Different categories of finds reveal how Neanderthals have manifested at different moments behaviors not ascribable to the utilitarian sphere, but to the aesthetic or symbolic. When the majority of this evidence dates to the few millennia that preceded the spread of Anatomically Modern Humans in Europe, these are grounds to continue the debate regarding the emergence of complex behavior, seen as an autonomous phenomenon of Neanderthal man or as the result of contact with immigrant populations. Re-examination of pebbles or flaked stones, a large part of such evidence, using a rigorous technological and taphonomic approach integrated with experimental tests, has already revealed these materials to be insignificant or natural, rather than anthropic, in origin. The following work seeks to shed light on the uncertainty existing around those stones and lithic artefacts bearing surface lines and scratches; these are of doubtful anthropic origin, but have not, as yet, been definitively interpreted. Generally, these findings are occasional in Mousterian sites, and when they are recovered with an excellent degree of preservation, different methods and levels of observation can be used for investigating them. The case studies taken into account are three sites in north Italy, where the surfaces of pebbles and flakes reveal a variety of signs and modifications attributable to various utilitarian acts. Of these, preventive cleaning of flint nodules has not been excluded, even if the traces on some tools reveal intentionality and repetition of gestures applied to the construction of a curated artifact. (...)

"Paleo", Revue d'archéologie préhistorique, n. 24 - 2013

- Un campement épipaléolithique de chasseurs dans l’ouest de la France, di M. Allard

- Diversité fonctionnelle et spatiale des campements paléolithiques et mésolithiques dans la Polésie de Lublin (Pologne), di T. Boron

- L’art pariétal de la grotte Tastet (Sainte-Colome, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France): au carrefour des traditions artistiques tardiglaciaires, di D. Garate, O. Rivero, R. Bourrillon, J. M. Pétillon

- Attribution culturelle au Gravettien ancien des fossiles humains de l’abri Cro-Magnon (Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne, France), di D. Henry-Gambier, R. Nespoulet, L. Chiotti

- Art mobilier inédit du gisement de Bourrouilla à Arancou (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France): données techno-stylistiques et chrono-culturelles, di L. Aurière et alii

- Two newly identified Mousterian human rib fragments from Combe-Grenal (domme, France), di A. Gómez-Olivencia et alii

- Grands carnivores et mésofaune de l’Aurignacien ancien à La Quina aval (Charente, France) (fouilles V. Dujardin), di J. B. Mallye, M. C. Soulier, V. Laroulandie

- Des œuvres d’art magdaléniennes inédites à Pont d’Ambon (Bourdeilles, Dordogne, France), di P. Paillet, E. Man-Estier, P. Bonnet-Jacquement

- Analyse comparative structurale des diaphyses fémorales néandertaliennes BD 5 (MIS 5e) et CDV-Tour 1 (MIS 3) de La Chaise-de-Vouthon, Charente, France, di L. Puymerail, S. Condemi, A. Debénath

- À propos de deux molaires déciduales inférieures provenant des niveaux moustériens de la Grotte du Bison (Arcy-sur-Cure, Yonne, France), di A. M. Tillier et alii

Stone tools from the inside out: radial point distribution, di A. T. R. Riddle, M. Chazan, "World Archaeology", Volume 46, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 123-136

The concept of shape is central to the classification of material culture. In the case of lithic technology, archaeologists have attempted to characterize shape quantitatively and qualitatively using diverse methods ranging from manual caliper measurements and metric ratios to digital artifact scans and statistical analyses. Three-dimensional modeling has opened up new avenues for shape analysis that permit a more holistic perspective on how objects occupy space. As a result, researchers are able to explore new qualities of artifacts that were previously inaccessible through more traditional shape analyses. This paper outlines a new method for quantifying distribution of mass in lithic specimens from three-dimensional point-cloud data. Radial point distributions (RPDs) are calculated from point-filled models based on the distances of each point to the model centroid. The resulting distribution data provide a means of quantifying three-dimensional shape that is readily compared through statistical analyses. RPD calculation requires no manual specimen alignment or landmark identification, thereby removing major sources of subjectivity. It is argued that RPDs provide a means of quantifying the ‘balance’ of lithic specimens, such as handaxes, allowing researchers to explore this tactile aspect of stone tools in conjunction with more traditional visual aspects of shape.

Aggiornamento 6 aprile

A biometric re-evaluation of recent claims for Early Upper Palaeolithic wolf domestication in Eurasia, di M. Boudadi-Malignea, G. Escarguel, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 45, May 2014, Pages 80–89

The timing of wolf domestication remains a subject of intense debate, especially as recent genetic, morphological and radiometric analyses of relevant skeletal material apparently demonstrate the presence of canids on Eurasian Early Upper Palaeolithic sites to be more widespread than previously envisaged. However, numerous questions still surround wolf domestication, not least of which is satisfactorily explaining the process whereby this social carnivore progressively became a ‘member’ of human societies. The analysis presented here emphasises the substantial variability of both modern and Pleistocene wolf populations, and in doing so, further highlights the need for caution when considering species attributions and, more particularly, accurately identifying dog rather than wolf remains in archaeological assemblages. A combination of biometric and morphological data provides a reliable basis for critiquing a series of recent publications purportedly demonstrating the presence of dogs alongside humans during the Early Upper Palaeolithic.

The effect of raw material on inter-analyst variation and analyst accuracy for lithic analysis: a case study from Olduvai Gorge, di T. Proffitt, I. de la Torre, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 45, May 2014, Pages 270–283

This study aims to understand what effect, in terms of inter-analysis variation and analyst accuracy, different raw material types have on modern technological analyses of lithic assemblages. This is done through a series of blind analysis tests undertaken on experimentally derived assemblages of cores and flakes. Novelties of our approach include the introduction of refit studies as a method to assess analyst's accuracy, and the use of statistical tests specifically designed to address inter-analyst variability, common in other disciplines but rarely used in Archaeology. The experimental assemblages were produced from raw materials collected at Olduvai Gorge, an archaeological sequence that has been a source for studies of early human technology for several decades, and where re-analyses of the same assemblages have usually offered different interpretations. The results of the blind analyses are compared to the true technological values obtained through full refit analysis of the experimental material, and suggest that there is a significant difference in terms of inter-analyst variability as well as accuracy related to different raw materials. Our paper highlights the interpretative problems posed by difficult-to-analyse raw materials such as quartzite, and stresses subjectivity present in stone-tool technological studies, which may contribute to explain differences in the interpretation of Early Stone Age lithic assemblages.

Diet of upper paleolithic modern humans: Evidence from microwear texture analysis, di S. El Zaatari, J. J. Hublin, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 153, Issue 4, pages 570–581, April 2014

This article presents the results of the occlusal molar microwear texture analysis of 32 adult Upper Paleolithic modern humans from a total of 21 European sites dating to marine isotope stages 3 and 2. The occlusal molar microwear textures of these specimens were analyzed with the aim of examining the effects of the climatic, as well as the cultural, changes on the diets of the Upper Paleolithic modern humans. The results of this analysis do not reveal any environmentally driven dietary shifts for the Upper Paleolithic hominins indicating that the climatic and their associated paleoecological changes did not force these humans to significantly alter their diets in order to survive. However, the microwear texture analysis does detect culturally related changes in the Upper Paleolithic humans' diets. Specifically, significant differences in diet were found between the earlier Upper Paleolithic individuals, i.e., those belonging to the Aurignacian and Gravettian contexts, and the later Magdalenian ones, such that the diet of the latter group was more varied and included more abrasive foods compared with those of the former. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:570–581, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Evidence for a 15N positive excursion in terrestrial foodwebs at the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in south-western France: Implications for early modern human palaeodiet and palaeoenvironment, di H. Bocherens, D. G. Drucker, S. Madelaine, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 69, April 2014, Pages 31–43

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition around 35,000 years ago coincides with the replacement of Neanderthals by anatomically modern humans in Europe. Several hypotheses have been suggested to explain this replacement, one of them being the ability of anatomically modern humans to broaden their dietary spectrum beyond the large ungulate prey that Neanderthals consumed exclusively. This scenario is notably based on higher nitrogen-15 amounts in early Upper Palaeolithic anatomically modern human bone collagen compared with late Neanderthals. In this paper, we document a clear increase of nitrogen-15 in bone collagen of terrestrial herbivores during the early Aurignacian associated with anatomically modern humans compared with the stratigraphically older Châtelperronian and late Mousterian fauna associated with Neanderthals. Carnivores such as wolves also exhibit a significant increase in nitrogen-15, which is similar to that documented for early anatomically modern humans compared with Neanderthals in Europe. A shift in nitrogen-15 at the base of the terrestrial foodweb is responsible for such a pattern, with a preserved foodweb structure before and after the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in south-western France. Such an isotopic shift in the terrestrial ecosystem may be due to an increase in aridity during the time of deposition of the early Aurignacian layers. If it occurred across Europe, such a shift in nitrogen-15 in terrestrial foodwebs would be enough to explain the observed isotopic trend between late Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans, without any significant change in the diet composition at the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition.

Plant foods and the dietary ecology of Neanderthals and early modern humans, di A. G. Henry, A. S. Brooks, D. R. Piperno, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 69, April 2014, Pages 44–54

One of the most important challenges in anthropology is understanding the disappearance of Neanderthals. Previous research suggests that Neanderthals had a narrower diet than early modern humans, in part because they lacked various social and technological advances that lead to greater dietary variety, such as a sexual division of labor and the use of complex projectile weapons. The wider diet of early modern humans would have provided more calories and nutrients, increasing fertility, decreasing mortality and supporting large population sizes, allowing them to out-compete Neanderthals. However, this model for Neanderthal dietary behavior is based on analysis of animal remains, stable isotopes, and other methods that provide evidence only of animal food in the diet. This model does not take into account the potential role of plant food. Here we present results from the first broad comparison of plant foods in the diets of Neanderthals and early modern humans from several populations in Europe, the Near East, and Africa. Our data comes from the analysis of plant microremains (starch grains and phytoliths) in dental calculus and on stone tools. Our results suggest that both species consumed a similarly wide array of plant foods, including foods that are often considered low-ranked, like underground storage organs and grass seeds. Plants were consumed across the entire range of individuals and sites we examined, and none of the expected predictors of variation (species, geographic region, or associated stone tool technology) had a strong influence on the number of plant species consumed. Our data suggest that Neanderthal dietary ecology was more complex than previously thought. This implies that the relationship between Neanderthal technology, social behavior, and food acquisition strategies must be better explored.

The chronology of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic in northern Iberia: New insights from L'Arbreda, Labeko Koba and La Viña, di R.E. Wood et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 69, April 2014, Pages 91–109

Since the late 1980s, northern Iberia has yielded some of the earliest radiocarbon dated Aurignacian assemblages in Western Europe, probably produced by anatomically modern humans (AMHs). This is at odds with its location furthest from the likely eastern entry point of AMHs, and has also suggested to some that the Châtelperronian resulted from cultural transfer from AMHs to Neanderthals. However, the accuracy of the early chronology has been extensively disputed, primarily because of the poor association between the dated samples and human activity. Here, we test the chronology of three sites in northern Iberia, L'Arbreda, Labeko Koba and La Viña, by radiocarbon dating ultrafiltered collagen from anthropogenically modified bones. The published dates from Labeko Koba are shown to be significant underestimates due to the insufficient removal of young contaminants. The early (c.44 ka cal BP [thousands of calibrated years before present]) Aurignacian chronology at L'Arbreda cannot be reproduced, but the reason for this is difficult to ascertain. The existing chronology of La Viña is found to be approximately correct. Together, the evidence suggests that major changes in technocomplexes occurred contemporaneously between the Mediterranean and Atlantic regions of northern Iberia, with the Aurignacian appearing around 42 ka cal BP, a date broadly consistent with the appearance of this industry elsewhere in Western Europe.

Evidence for the repeated use of a central hearth at Middle Pleistocene (300 ky ago) Qesem Cave, Israel, di R. Shahack-Grossa, F. Berna, P. Karkanas, C. Lemorini, A. Gopher, R. Barkai, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 44, April 2014, Pages 12–21

A major debate in prehistory revolves around the time and place of the earliest habitual use of fire and the hominin species responsible for it. Here we present a newly discovered hearth at Qesem Cave (Israel) that was repeatedly used and was the focus of hearth-centered human activities, as early as three-hundred-thousand years ago. The hearth, identified based on mineralogical and microscopic criteria, contains two superimposed use cycles, each composed of shorter episodes – possibly the earliest superimposed hearth securely identified to date. The hearth covers ca. 4 m2 in area making it a uniquely large hearth in comparison to any contemporaneous hearth identified thus far, possibly indicating it has been used by a relatively large group of people. In addition, the hearth is located in the center of the cave and is associated with butchered animal remains and a dense flint assemblage. The flint assemblage indicates spatially differentiated meat cutting and hide working activity areas. The central location of the hearth within the cave and the activities associated with it may reflect an embedded perception of space organization of the Qesem Cave inhabitants. Since fire was habitually used throughout the 420–200 ky sequence of Qesem Cave, where preservation conditions are alike throughout, we suggest that this unique hearth may reflect a development in nature and most probably in the intensity of fire use in Qesem Cave, from ca. 300 ka ago onwards.

Magdalenian antler projectile point design: Determining original form for uni- and bilaterally barbed points, di M. C. Langley, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 44, April 2014, Pages 104–116

Maintenance and discard patterns are a central aspect of projectile point analyses. Unfortunately, while the examination of maintenance and discard patterns for lithic technologies is well advanced, osseous projectile point maintenance and discard analyses remain in their infancy. In the Magdalenian context, a large part of this situation is owing to the fact that the form and proportions of osseous points at the time of initial manufacture have rarely been clearly described, nor particularly well understood, by researchers. This paper focuses on uni- and bilaterally barbed points manufactured from antler and dating to the Late Magdalenian. Through examination of 732 barbed point artefacts recovered from 18 sites located throughout France and Germany, along with engravings on portable art, and a brief consideration of ethnographic data, an updated proposal for the original proportions of these iconic barbed weapon tips can be made. Knowledge of these dimensions is essential if researchers are to reconstruct the reduction of these artefacts through use, maintenance and rejuvenation cycles.

Searching for consistencies in Châtelperronian pigment use, di L. Dayet, F. d’Errico, R. Garcia-Moreno, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 44, April 2014, Pages 180–193

Evidence supporting the hypothesis that Neanderthals developed cultural adaptations comparable to those associated with the Upper Palaeolithic is controversial, and come from a handful of sites, mainly attributed to the Châtelperronian. Pigments play a growing role in this debate. We present a critical review of available information on Châtelperronian pigment use, and submit pigment lumps from three Châtelperronian sites, Roc-de-Combe (Lot), Le Basté, and Bidart (Pyrénées Atlantiques) to a microscopic, elemental and mineralogical analysis using multifocus optical microscopy, SEM-EDS, XRF, Raman, and μXRD techniques. The thirty-nine pigment lumps from Roc-de-Combe consist of a great variety of red and black iron and manganese oxide rich rocks, probably collected at close and relatively distant sources. A third of the pieces from Roc-de-Combe and one piece from Bidart and Le Basté bear percussion marks and facets produced by grinding. Our results demonstrate that a consistent use of pigments, interpreted as reflecting site function, occurs at sites located in the South-western area of the known distribution of the Châtelperronian. Considering that this area is distant from the location of the earliest Proto-Aurignacian and Early Aurignacian sites from Germany and Austria, and that available radiocarbon dating indicate a chronological anteriority of Roc-de-Combe Châtelperronian, we argue that the hypothesis that Châtelperronian pigment use results from Neanderthal ‘acculturation’ is improbable.

'Homo' is the only primate whose tooth size decreases as its brain size increases, April 3, 2014

Scientists have discovered a curious characteristic of the members of the human lineage, classed as the genus Homo: they are the only primates where, throughout their 2.5-million year history, the size of their teeth has decreased in tandem with the increase in their brain size. (...)

Human evolution: Fifty years after Homo habilis, di B. Wood, "Nature", 02 April 2014, Volume 508, Number 7494

Half a century ago, the British–Kenyan palaeoanthropologist Louis Leakey and his colleagues made a controversial proposal: a collection of fossils from the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania belonged to a new species within our own genus1. The announcement of Homo habilis was a turning point in palaeoanthropology. It shifted the search for the first humans from Asia to Africa and began a controversy that endures to this day. Even with all the fossil evidence and analytical techniques from the past 50 years, a convincing hypothesis for the origin of Homo remains elusive. In 1960, the twig of the tree of life that contains hominins — modern humans, their ancestors, and other forms more closely related to humans than to chimpanzees and bonobos — looked remarkably straightforward. At its base was Australopithecus, the apeman that palaeoanthropologists had been recovering in southern Africa since the 1920s. This, the thinking went, was replaced by the taller, larger-brained Homo erectus from Asia, which spread to Europe and evolved into Neanderthals, which evolved into Homo sapiens. But what lay between the australopiths and H. erectus, the first known human? (...)

Did Europeans Get Fat From Neandertals?, di A. Gibbons, "Science NOW", 1 April 2014

Neandertals and modern Europeans had something in common: They were fatheads of the same ilk. A new genetic analysis reveals that our brawny cousins had a number of distinct genes involved in the buildup of certain types of fat in their brains and other tissues—a trait shared by today’s Europeans, but not Asians. Because two-thirds of our brains are built of fatty acids, or lipids, the differences in fat composition between Europeans and Asians might have functional consequences, perhaps in helping them adapt to colder climates or causing metabolic diseases. (...)

Humans and saber-toothed tiger met in Germany 300,000 years ago, April 1, 2014

Scientists excavating at the Schöningen open-cast coal mine in north-central Germany have discovered the remains of a saber-toothed cat preserved in a layer some 300,000 years old -- the same stratum in which wooden spears were found, indicating that early humans also inhabited the area, which at that time was the bank of a shallow lake. (...)

Neanderthal ancestry drives evolution of lipid catabolism in contemporary Europeans, di E. E. Khrameeva, "Nature Communications" 5, 01 April 2014, doi:10.1038/ncomms4584

Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in contemporary humans. Here we show that while the genome-wide frequency of Neanderthal-like sites is approximately constant across all contemporary out-of-Africa populations, genes involved in lipid catabolism contain more than threefold excess of such sites in contemporary humans of European descent. Evolutionally, these genes show significant association with signatures of recent positive selection in the contemporary European, but not Asian or African populations. Functionally, the excess of Neanderthal-like sites in lipid catabolism genes can be linked with a greater divergence of lipid concentrations and enzyme expression levels within this pathway, seen in contemporary Europeans, but not in the other populations. We conclude that sequence variants that evolved in Neanderthals may have given a selective advantage to anatomically modern humans that settled in the same geographical areas. (...)

European Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 8 – MIS 3): cultures, environment, chronology, Volumes 326–327, Pages 1-518 (1 April 2014). Edited by Adam Nadachowski and Krzysztof Jan Cyrek

- European Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 8–MIS 3): Cultures, environment, chronology
- Sediments of Biśnik Cave (Poland): Lithology and stratigraphy of the Middle Palaeolithic site 
- Middle Palaeolithic cultural levels from Middle and Late Pleistocene sediments of Biśnik Cave, Poland 
- Rodent palaeofaunas from Biśnik Cave (Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, Poland): Palaeoecological, palaeoclimatic and biostratigraphic reconstruction 
- Middle Palaeolithic remains of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus Linnaeus, 1758) from Biśnik Cave and other cave localities from Poland 
- Giant deer Megaloceros giganteus Blumenbach, 1799 (Cervidae, Mammalia) from Palaeolithic of Eastern Europe 
- Presence of Panthera gombaszoegensis (Kretzoi, 1938) in the late Middle Pleistocene of Biśnik Cave, Poland, with an overview of Eurasian jaguar size variability 
- Paleoecology of bears from MIS 8–MIS 3 deposits of Biśnik Cave based on stable isotopes (δ13C, δ18O) and dental cementum analyses 
- Middle Paleolithic sequences of the Ciemna Cave (Prądnik valley, Poland): The problem of synchronization 
- Micoquian assemblage and environmental conditions for the Neanderthals in Obłazowa Cave, Western Carpathians, Poland 
- New radiocarbon data from Micoquian layers of the Kůlna Cave (Czech Republic) 
- Geoarchaeology of the Middle Palaeolithic locality at Znojmo, southern Moravia 
- Archaeological sites of the Süttő Travertine Complex (Hungary) with stratigraphical and paleoecological implications from their faunas 
- Stratigraphic position and natural environment of the oldest Middle Palaeolithic in central Podolia, Ukraine: New data from the Velykyi Glybochok site 
- Character and chronology of natural events modifying the Palaeolithic settlement records in the Ihrovytsia site (Podolia, the Ukraine) 
- Mammoths of the Molodova V Paleolithic site (Dniester Basin): The case of dental thin-enamel specialization and paleoecological adaptation 
- Environment and climate of the Crimean Mountains during the Late Pleistocene inferred from stable isotope analysis of red deer (Cervus elaphus) bones from the Emine-Bair-Khosar Cave 
- New geoarcheological studies at the Middle Paleolithic sites of Khotylevo I and Betovo (Bryansk oblast, Russia): Some preliminary results 
- The Middle Palaeolithic of the central Trans-Urals: Present evidence 
- When Neanderthals used cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) remains: Bone retouchers from unit 5 of Scladina Cave (Belgium) 
- First Neanderthal settlements in northern Iberia: The Acheulean and the emergence of Mousterian technology in the Cantabrian region 
- A wildcat (Felis silvestris) butchered by Neanderthals in Level O of the Abric Romaní site (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain) 
- Environmental and climatic context of Neanderthal occupation in southwestern Europe during MIS3 inferred from the small-vertebrate assemblages 
- Manzanares Valley (Madrid, Spain): A good country for Proboscideans and Neanderthals 
- Middle Palaeolithic variability in Central Europe: Mousterian vs Micoquian 
- The beginnings and diversity of Levallois methods in the early Middle Palaeolithic of Central Europe 
- The earliest Palaeolithic bifacial leafpoints in Central and Southern Europe: Techno-functional approach 
- The origin of symbolic behavior of Middle Palaeolithic humans: Recent controversies 
- The Polish fossil record of the wolf Canis and the deer Alces, Capreolus, Megaloceros, Dama and Cervus in an evolutionary perspective 
- Late Pleistocene European and Late Miocene African accelerations of faunal change in relation to the climate and as a background to human evolution 
- ‘Steppe’ mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) remains in their geological and cultural context from Bełchatów (Poland): A consideration of human exploitation in the Middle Pleistocene
- The Palaeolithic locality Schöningen (Germany): A review of the mammalian record 
- Vertebrates from the Middle Pleistocene locality Lysa Gora 1 in Ukraine 
- Middle Paleolithic bone retouchers in Southeastern France: Variability and functionality

On the chronology of the Uluzzian, di K. Douka et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 68, March 2014, Pages 1–13

The Uluzzian, one of Europe's ‘transitional’ technocomplexes, has gained particular significance over the past three years when the only human remains associated with it were attributed to modern humans, instead of Neanderthals as previously thought. The position of the Uluzzian at stratified sequences, always overlying late Mousterian layers and underlying early Upper Palaeolithic ones, highlights its significance in understanding the passage from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic, as well as the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southeastern Mediterranean Europe. Despite several studies investigating aspects of its lithic techno-typology, taxonomy and material culture, the Uluzzian chronology has remained extremely poorly-known, based on a handful of dubious chronometric determinations. Here we aim to elucidate the chronological aspect of the technocomplex by presenting an integrated synthesis of new radiocarbon results and a Bayesian statistical approach from four stratified Uluzzian cave sequences in Italy and Greece (Cavallo, Fumane, Castelcivita and Klissoura 1). In addition to building a reliable chronological framework for the Uluzzian, we examine its appearance, tempo-spatial spread and correlation to previous and later Palaeolithic assemblages (Mousterian, Protoaurignacian) at the relevant regions. We conclude that the Uluzzian arrived in Italy and Greece shortly before 45,000 years ago and its final stages are placed at ~39,500 years ago, its end synchronous (if not slightly earlier) with the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption.

Geometric properties and comparative biomechanics of Homo floresiensis mandibles, di D. J. Daeglinga, B. A. Patel, W. L. Jungers, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 68, March 2014, Pages 36–46

The hypodigm of Homo floresiensis from the cave of Liang Bua on Flores Island in the archipelago of Indonesia includes two mandibles (LB1/2 and LB6/1). The morphology of their symphyses and corpora has been described as sharing similarities with both australopiths and early Homo despite their Late Pleistocene age. Although detailed morphological comparisons of these mandibles with those of modern and fossil hominin taxa have been made, a functional analysis in the context of masticatory biomechanics has yet to be performed. Utilizing data on cortical bone geometry from computed tomography scans, we compare the mechanical attributes of the LB1 and LB6 mandibles with samples of modern Homo, Pan, Pongo, and Gorilla, as well as fossil samples of Paranthropus robustus, Australopithecus africanus and South African early Homo. Structural stiffness measures were derived from the geometric data to provide relative measures of mandibular corpus strength under hypothesized masticatory loading regimes. These mechanical variables were evaluated relative to bone area, mandibular length and estimates of body size to assess their functional affinities and to test the hypothesis that the Liang Bua mandibles can be described as scaled-down variants of either early hominins or modern humans. Relative to modern hominoids, the H. floresiensis material appears to be relatively strong in terms of rigidity in torsion and transverse bending, but is relatively weak under parasagittal bending. Thus, they are ‘robust’ relative to modern humans (and comparable with australopiths) under some loads but not others. Neither LB1 nor LB6 can be described simply as ‘miniaturized’ versions of modern human jaws since mandible length is more or less equivalent in Homo sapiens and H. floresiensis. The mechanical attributes of the Liang Bua mandibles are consistent with previous inferences that masticatory loads were reduced relative to australopiths but remained elevated relative to modern Homo.

Early Upper Paleolithic bone processing and insights into small-scale storage of fats at Vale Boi, southern Iberia, di T. Manne, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 43, March 2014, Pages 111–123

The Upper Paleolithic site of Vale Boi in coastal, southwestern Portugal currently represents one of the earliest known cases of grease-rendering in Eurasia, with initial occupation of the site occurring during the early Gravettian at ∼28,000 BP. Already by this time, Vale Boi foragers were intensively processing ungulate carcasses by rendering grease from their bones. Zooarchaeological evidence of grease rendering includes extensive fragmentation of red deer and equine remains, abundant evidence of impact features on specimens and a lower proportion of preserved grease-rich skeletal portions. Comparisons of red deer and horse bone portions with density assays and utility indices suggest that ungulates at Vale Boi were systematically processed for their marrow and bone grease. The early onset of grease-rendering at Vale Boi, in addition to heavy rabbit exploitation may have been spurred by ungulate communities unable to support human consumer-demand on their own. However, the continued practice of grease-rendering at Vale Boi over the course of the Upper Paleolithic may also be closely related to the significance of bone fats for mobile hunter–gatherers – as a highly valued, storable and easily-transportable resource.

An Early Upper Palaeolithic decorated bone tubular rod from Pod Hradem Cave, Czech Republic, di D. Wright, L. Nejman, F. d'Errico, M. Králík, R. Wood, M. Ivanov, Š. Hladilová, "Antiquity", Issue 339, March 2014, Volume: 88, Number: 339, Page: 30–46

Personal ornaments are a notable feature of the Early Upper Palaeolithic in Europe and an important expression of modern human identity. The tubular bone rod from Pod Hradem Cave in the Czech Republic is the first example of its kind from Central Europe. Laboratory examination reveals the techniques used in its manufacture and underlines the skill of its maker. AMS dates and Bayesian modelling suggest a cultural association with the Early Aurignacian period. It illustrates the cultural links across large areas of Europe at this time, although it is unique in its specific combination of size, raw material and decorative features. (...)

New views on old hands: the context of stencils in El Castillo and La Garma caves (Cantabria, Spain), di P. Pettitt, A. Maximiano Castillejo, P. Arias, R. Ontañón Peredo, R. Harrison, "Antiquity", Issue 339, March 2014, Volume: 88, Number: 339, Page: 47–63

Hand stencils are an intriguing feature of prehistoric imagery in caves and rockshelters in several parts of the world, and the recent demonstration that the oldest of those in Western Europe date back to 37 000 years or earlier further enhances their significance. Their positioning within the painted caves of France and Spain is far from random, but responds to the shapes and fissures in the cave walls. Made under conditions of low and flickering light, the authors suggest that touch—‘palpation’—as much as vision, would have driven and directed the locations chosen for these stencils. Detailed study of the images in two Cantabrian caves also allows different individuals to be distinguished, most of whom appear to have been female. Finally, the project reveals deliberate associations between the stencils and features on the cave walls. (...)

Defining Magdalenian cultural groups in Franco-Cantabria by the formal analysis of portable artworks, di O. Rivero, G. Sauvet, "Antiquity", Issue 339, March 2014, Volume: 88, Number: 339, Page: 64–80

The motifs, techniques and stylistic features of Upper Palaeolithic art offer enormous potential for the investigation of social and cultural interactions in south-western France and northern Spain during the later stages of the last ice age. The key regions of Aquitaine, Cantabria and the Pyrenees clearly share an overall family resemblance, but detailed analysis of horse heads on portable objects of bone, antler and stone from Magdalenian contexts reveal that particular features can be attributed to different regions at different periods. Furthermore, the patterns of interconnection are structured very differently in the Upper Magdalenian than in the Middle Magdalenian, perhaps as rising temperatures in the latter period led to territorial expansion and social realignment. (...)

Le site de Kocabaş, bassin de Denizli, Anatolie, Turquie, "L'Antropologie", Volume 118, Issue 1, Pages 1-114 (January–March 2014)

- Historique de la découverte et des recherches sur la calotte crânienne d’Homo erectus archaïque de Kocabaş, Bassin de Denizli, Anatolie, Turquie
- La calotte crânienne de l’Homo erectus de Kocabaş (Bassin de Denizli, Turquie) 
- Conclusion. Bilan des recherches interdisciplinaires effectuées sur le site de l’Homo erectus de Denizli, Kocabaş, Bassin de Denizli, Anatolie, Turquie. L’Homo erectus aux portes de l’Europe

Human evolution: The Neanderthal in the family, di E. Callaway, "Nature", 27 March 2014, Volume 507, Number 7493

Before ancient DNA exposed the sexual proclivities of Neanderthals or the ancestry of the first Americans, there was the quagga. An equine oddity with the head of a zebra and the rump of a donkey, the last quagga (Equus quagga quagga) died in 1883. A century later, researchers published around 200 nucleotides sequenced from a 140-year-old piece of quagga muscle. Those scraps of DNA — the first genetic secrets pulled from a long-dead organism — revealed that the quagga was distinct from the mountain zebra (Equus zebra). More significantly, the research showed that from then on, examining fossils would no longer be the only way to probe extinct life. “If the long-term survival of DNA proves to be a general phenomenon,” geneticists Russell Higuchi and Allan Wilson of the University of California, Berkeley, and their colleagues noted in their quagga paper, “several fields including palaeontology, evolutionary biology, archaeology and forensic science may benefit.” (...)

Neandertal clavicle length, di E. Trinkaus, T. W. Holliday, B. M. Auerbach, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", March 25, 2014, vol. 111, no. 12, pp. 4438–4442

The Late Pleistocene archaic humans from western Eurasia (the Neandertals) have been described for a century as exhibiting absolutely and relatively long clavicles. This aspect of their body proportions has been used to distinguish them from modern humans, invoked to account for other aspects of their anatomy and genetics, used in assessments of their phylogenetic polarities, and used as evidence for Late Pleistocene population relationships. However, it has been unclear whether the usual scaling of Neandertal clavicular lengths to their associated humeral lengths reflects long clavicles, short humeri, or both. Neandertal clavicle lengths, along with those of early modern humans and latitudinally diverse recent humans, were compared with both humeral lengths and estimated body masses (based on femoral head diameters). The Neandertal do have long clavicles relative their humeri, even though they fall within the ranges of variation of early and recent humans. However, when scaled to body masses, their humeral lengths are relatively short, and their clavicular lengths are indistinguishable from those of Late Pleistocene and recent modern humans. The few sufficiently complete Early Pleistocene Homo clavicles seem to have relative lengths also well within recent human variation. Therefore, appropriately scaled clavicular length seems to have varied little through the genus Homo, and it should not be used to account for other aspects of Neandertal biology or their phylogenetic status.

The genomic landscape of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans, di S. Sankararaman et alii, "Nature" 507, 354–357 (20 March 2014)

Genomic studies have shown that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, and that non-Africans today are the products of this mixture1, 2. The antiquity of Neanderthal gene flow into modern humans means that genomic regions that derive from Neanderthals in any one human today are usually less than a hundred kilobases in size. However, Neanderthal haplotypes are also distinctive enough that several studies have been able to detect Neanderthal ancestry at specific loci. We systematically infer Neanderthal haplotypes in the genomes of 1,004 present-day humans. Regions that harbour a high frequency of Neanderthal alleles are enriched for genes affecting keratin filaments, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles may have helped modern humans to adapt to non-African environments. We identify multiple Neanderthal-derived alleles that confer risk for disease, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles continue to shape human biology. An unexpected finding is that regions with reduced Neanderthal ancestry are enriched in genes, implying selection to remove genetic material derived from Neanderthals. Genes that are more highly expressed in testes than in any other tissue are especially reduced in Neanderthal ancestry, and there is an approximately fivefold reduction of Neanderthal ancestry on the X chromosome, which is known from studies of diverse species to be especially dense in male hybrid sterility genes. These results suggest that part of the explanation for genomic regions of reduced Neanderthal ancestry is Neanderthal alleles that caused decreased fertility in males when moved to a modern human genetic background.

'Little Foot' Fossil Could Be Human Ancestor, di M.Balter, "Science NOW", 14 March 2014

He may be called Little Foot, but for human evolution researchers he’s a big deal: His is the most complete skeleton known of an early member of the human lineage. Ever since the skeleton was discovered in a South African cave in the 1990s and named for its relatively small foot bones, researchers have been fiercely debating how old it is, with estimates ranging from about 2 million years to more than 3 million. A new geological study of the cave concludes that Little Foot is at least 3 million years old. If correct, that would mean he is old enough to be a direct ancestor of today’s humans, and could shift South Africa to the forefront of human evolution. (...)

How apes and humans evolved side by side, March 4, 2014

In a new book, a paleoanthropologist incorporates his research with a synthesis of a vast amount of research from other scientists who study primate evolution and behavior. The book explains how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species. (...)

Krotovinas, pedogenic processes and stratigraphic ambiguities of the Upper Palaeolithic sites Kostenki and Borshchevo (Russia), di D. Pietscha, P. Kühn, S. Lisitsyn, A. Markova, A. Sinitsyn, "Quaternary International", Volume 324, 4 March 2014, Pages 172–179

The excavations of the Upper Palaeolithic sites of Kostenki and Borshchevo, located in the Middle Russian Plain, bear several meters of loess-derived colluvial deposits of the Middle and Late Valdai, which cover alluvial sediments of the Don floodplain. At least four cultural layers and more than three paleosol units occur within the colluvial deposits. A high number of krotovinas is most obvious, mainly the burrows of Cricetus cricetus and Lagurus lagurus, which on first view seem only to disturb sediment and soil stratigraphy. To disprove this assumption, the present paper investigates the significance of krotovina fillings within soil research by applying micromorphological analysis. The study gives insight into different filling materials, soil forming processes inside abandoned and filled burrow systems, and surrounding material. In some cases, krotovina fillings in this part of the Middle Russian Plain can be areas of bulking and compaction, of preferential paths of infiltration followed by calcium carbonate depletion, and of drying followed by secondary calcification. Further, burrows are paths for second and third generations of soil faunal activities.

Resurrecting Surviving Neandertal Lineages from Modern Human Genomes, di B. Vernot, J. M. Akey, "Science", 28 February 2014, Vol. 343, no. 6174, pp. 1017-1021 

Anatomically modern humans overlapped and mated with Neandertals such that non-African humans inherit ~1 to 3% of their genomes from Neandertal ancestors. We identified Neandertal lineages that persist in the DNA of modern humans, in whole-genome sequences from 379 European and 286 East Asian individuals, recovering more than 15 gigabases of introgressed sequence that spans ~20% of the Neandertal genome (false discovery rate = 5%). Analyses of surviving archaic lineages suggest that there were fitness costs to hybridization, admixture occurred both before and after divergence of non-African modern humans, and Neandertals were a source of adaptive variation for loci involved in skin phenotypes. Our results provide a new avenue for paleogenomics studies, allowing substantial amounts of population-level DNA sequence information to be obtained from extinct groups, even in the absence of fossilized remains.

I dieci padri dell'Homo Sapiens, 25 Febbraio 2014

L'evoluzione dell'Homo Sapiens è stato un lungo viaggio, iniziato nelle savane del continente africano, e passato attraverso una serie di tappe e migrazioni successive prima di portare la nostra specie a colonizzare quasi tutti gli angoli della Terra. Uno studio dell'Università La Sapienza ha analizzato oggi la distribuzione geografica e la filogenesi del cromosoma Y umano, identificando varianti genetiche che hanno permesso di ridisegnare nuovi scenari relativi all’origine e agli spostamenti dell’Homo sapiens. I nuovi risultati infatti spingerebbero a retrodatare le tappe migratorie del Sapiens, avvalorando l’ipotesi che i primi passi della nostra specie siano avvenuti in Africa centro-occidentale, e non nell’area orientale del continente, come ritenuto finora da molti scienziati. La nostra specie avrebbe inoltre circa 10 “padri fondatori”, ma solo uno di loro avrebbe dato origine alle linee di discendenza maschili presenti al di fuori del continente africano. (...)

The Evolution of Hominin Behavior during the Oldowan-Acheulian Transition: Recent Evidence from Olduvai Gorge and Peninj (Tanzania), Volumes 322–323, Pages 1-314 (16 February 2014). Edited by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Fernando Díez-Martín, Audax Mabulla, Enrique Baquedano, Henry Bunn and Charles Musiba

- The evolution of hominin behavior during the Oldowan–Acheulean transition: Recent evidence from Olduvai Gorge and Peninj (Tanzania)
- Geo-archaeological and geometrically corrected reconstruction of the 1.84 Ma FLK Zinj paleolandscape at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 
- A critical re-evaluation of bone surface modification models for inferring fossil hominin and carnivore interactions through a multivariate approach: Application to the FLK Zinj archaeofaunal assemblage (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) 
- Prey mortality profiles indicate that Early Pleistocene Homo at Olduvai was an ambush predator 
- Paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental framework of FLK North archaeological site, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 
- Paleosol diversity in the Olduvai Basin, Tanzania: Effects of geomorphology, parent material, depositional environment, and groundwater on soil development 
- Reconstruction of a Pleistocene paleocatena using micromorphology and geochemistry of lake margin paleo-Vertisols, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 
- Taphonomic estimates of competition and the role of carnivore avoidance in hominin site use within the Early Pleistocene Olduvai Basin 
- New archaeological and geological research at SHK main site (Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) 
- On meat eating and human evolution: A taphonomic analysis of BK4b (Upper Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), and its bearing on hominin megafaunal consumption 
- Study of the SHK Main Site faunal assemblage, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Implications for Bed II taphonomy, paleoecology, and hominin utilization of megafauna 
- An ecological neo-taphonomic study of carcass consumption by lions in Tarangire National Park (Tanzania) and its relevance for human evolutionary biology 
- Technological strategies and the economy of raw materials in the TK (Thiongo Korongo) lower occupation, Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 
- Early Acheulean technology at Es2-Lepolosi (ancient MHS-Bayasi) in Peninj (Lake Natron, Tanzania) 
- Reassessment of the Early Acheulean at EN1-Noolchalai (Ancient RHS-Mugulud) in Peninj (Lake Natron, Tanzania) 
- Vegetation of Northern Tanzania during the Plio-Pleistocene: A synthesis of the paleobotanical evidences from Laetoli, Olduvai, and Peninj hominin sites 
- Orientation patterns of wildebeest bones on the lake Masek floodplain (Serengeti, Tanzania) and their relevance to interpret anisotropy in the Olduvai lacustrine floodplain 
- Lower Paleolithic bipolar reduction and hominin selection of quartz at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: What's the connection? 
- Middle Stone Age archaeology at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Separating endogenous ancient DNA from modern day contamination in a Siberian Neandertal, di P. Skoglund et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", February 11, 2014, vol. 111, no. 6, pp. 2229–2234

One of the main impediments for obtaining DNA sequences from ancient human skeletons is the presence of contaminating modern human DNA molecules in many fossil samples and laboratory reagents. However, DNA fragments isolated from ancient specimens show a characteristic DNA damage pattern caused by miscoding lesions that differs from present day DNA sequences. Here, we develop a framework for evaluating the likelihood of a sequence originating from a model with postmortem degradation—summarized in a postmortem degradation score—which allows the identification of DNA fragments that are unlikely to originate from present day sources. We apply this approach to a contaminated Neandertal specimen from Okladnikov Cave in Siberia to isolate its endogenous DNA from modern human contaminants and show that the reconstructed mitochondrial genome sequence is more closely related to the variation of Western Neandertals than what was discernible from previous analyses. Our method opens up the potential for genomic analysis of contaminated fossil material.

Hominin Footprints from Early Pleistocene Deposits at Happisburgh, UK, di N. Ashton et alii, February 07, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088329 - open access - 

Investigations at Happisburgh, UK, have revealed the oldest known hominin footprint surface outside Africa at between ca. 1 million and 0.78 million years ago. The site has long been recognised for the preservation of sediments containing Early Pleistocene fauna and flora, but since 2005 has also yielded humanly made flint artefacts, extending the record of human occupation of northern Europe by at least 350,000 years. The sediments consist of sands, gravels and laminated silts laid down by a large river within the upper reaches of its estuary. In May 2013 extensive areas of the laminated sediments were exposed on the foreshore. On the surface of one of the laminated silt horizons a series of hollows was revealed in an area of ca. 12 m2. The surface was recorded using multi-image photogrammetry which showed that the hollows are distinctly elongated and the majority fall within the range of juvenile to adult hominin foot sizes. In many cases the arch and front/back of the foot can be identified and in one case the impression of toes can be seen. Using foot length to stature ratios, the hominins are estimated to have been between ca. 0.93 and 1.73 m in height, suggestive of a group of mixed ages. The orientation of the prints indicates movement in a southerly direction on mud-flats along the river edge. Early Pleistocene human fossils are extremely rare in Europe, with no evidence from the UK. The only known species in western Europe of a similar age is Homo antecessor, whose fossil remains have been found at Atapuerca, Spain. The foot sizes and estimated stature of the hominins from Happisburgh fall within the range derived from the fossil evidence of Homo antecessor. (...)

Datation du plus vieil hominidé de Turquie, le chaînon manquant entre l'Europe et l'Afrique? 05/02/14

Une équipe franco-turque, codirigée par le Centre de Recherche en Géosciences de l'Environnement (CNRS, Université Aix Marseille Aix en Provence), le laboratoire Histoire naturelle de l'Homme Préhistorique (CNRS, MNHN) et l'Institut de paléontologie humaine (Paris) a pu dater à plus de 1 à 1,1 millions d'années les dépôts renfermant l'homme de Kocabas, le plus vieux fossile d'hominidé découvert en Turquie. Ce résultat précise l'histoire de la dispersion des hominidés. Une étude parue dans la revue Earth and Planetary Science Letters. (...)

Influence of lower limb configuration on walking cost in Late Pleistocene humans, di M. Hora, V. Sladek, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 67, February 2014, Pages 19–32

It has been proposed that Neandertals had about 30% higher gross cost of transport than anatomically modern humans (AMH) and that such difference implies higher daily energy demands and reduced foraging ranges in Neandertals. Thus, reduced walking economy could be among the factors contributing to the Neandertals' loss in competition with their anatomically modern successors. Previously, Neandertal walking cost had been estimated from just two parameters and based upon a pooled-sex sample. In the present study, we estimate sex-specific walking cost of Neandertals using a model accounting for body mass, lower limb length, lower limb proportions, and other features of lower limb configuration. Our results suggest that Neandertals needed more energy to walk a given distance than did AMH but the difference was less than half of that previously estimated in males and even far less pronounced in females. In contrast, comparison of the estimated walking cost adjusted to body mass indicates that Neandertals spent less energy per kilogram of body mass than AMH thanks to their lower limb configuration, males having 1–5% lower and females 1–3% lower mass-specific net cost of transport than AMH of the same sex. The primary cause of high cost of transport in Neandertal males is thus their great body mass, possibly a consequence of adaptation to cold, which was not fully offset by their cost-moderating lower limb configuration. The estimated differences in absolute energy spent for locomotion between Neandertal and AMH males would account for about 1% of previously estimated daily energy expenditure of Neandertal or AMH males.

Luminescence dating and palaeomagnetic age constraint on hominins from Sima de los Huesos, Atapuerca, Spain, di L. J. Arnold et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 67, February 2014, Pages 85–107

Establishing a reliable chronology on the extensive hominin remains at Sima de los Huesos is critical for an improved understanding of the complex evolutionary histories and phylogenetic relationships of the European Middle Pleistocene hominin record. In this study, we use a combination of ‘extended-range’ luminescence dating techniques and palaeomagnetism to provide new age constraint on sedimentary infills that are unambiguously associated with the Sima fossil assemblage. Post-infrared-infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) dating of K-feldspars and thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of individual quartz grains provide weighted mean ages of 433 ± 15 ka (thousands of years) and 416 ± 19 ka, respectively, for allochthonous sedimentary horizons overlying the hominin-bearing clay breccia. The six replicate luminescence ages obtained for this deposit are reproducible and provide a combined minimum age estimate of 427 ± 12 ka for the underlying hominin fossils. Palaeomagnetic directions for the luminescence dated sediment horizon and underlying fossiliferous clays display exclusively normal polarities. These findings are consistent with the luminescence dating results and confirm that the hominin fossil horizon accumulated during the Brunhes Chron, i.e., within the last 780 ka. The new bracketing age constraint for the Sima hominins is in broad agreement with radiometrically dated Homo heidelbergensis fossil sites, such as Mauer and Arago, and suggests that the split of the H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens lineages took place during the early Middle Pleistocene. More widespread numerical dating of key Early and Middle Pleistocene fossil sites across Europe is needed to test and refine competing models of hominin evolution. The new luminescence chronologies presented in this study demonstrate the versatility of TT-OSL and pIR-IR techniques and the potential role they could play in helping to refine evolutionary histories over Middle Pleistocene timescales.

Aggiornamento 2 febbraio

New Data on the Exploitation of Obsidian in the Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia) and Eastern Turkey, Part 2: Obsidian Procurement from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Late Bronze Age, di C. Chataigner, B. Gratuze, Archaeometry", Volume 56, Issue 1, pages 48–69, February 2014

Within the framework of the French archaeological mission ‘Caucasus’, in a previous paper we have presented new geochemical analyses on geological obsidians from the southern Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia) and eastern Turkey. We present here the second part of this research, which deals with provenance studies of archaeological obsidians from Armenia. These new data enhance our knowledge of obsidian exploitation over a period of more than 14 000 years, from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Late Bronze Age. The proposed methodology shows that source attribution can be easily made by plotting element contents and element ratios on three simple binary diagrams. The same diagrams were used for source discrimination. As the southern Caucasus is a mountainous region for which the factor of distance as the crow flies cannot be applied, we have explored the capacity of the Geographic Information System to evaluate the nature and patterns of travel costs between the sources of obsidian and the archaeological sites. The role of the secondary obsidian deposits, which enabled the populations to acquire raw material at a considerable distance from the outcrops, is also considered.

The Sound of Rock Art. The Acoustics of the Rock Art of Southern Andalusia (Spain), di M. Díaz-Andreu, C. García Benito, M. Lazarich, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", Volume 33, Issue 1, pages 1–18, February 2014

This paper explores the potential of acoustics to interpret the prehistoric rock art of southern Andalusia (Spain). Tests undertaken in two areas, north of the Celemín river and the Bacinete area, will form the basis of our discussion. The results obtained at a selection of rock art sites show that the two key rock art sites, El Tajo de las Figuras and the large shelter at Bacinete, both with the majority of paintings in the earlier Laguna de la Janda style, had good resonance values. In contrast, at most of the other minor sites tested, the values for resonance were negative or insignificant, regardless of whether they were painted in Laguna de la Janda or schematic style. We conclude that the major rock art sites in southern Andalusia were chosen not only for their geological appearance and location in the landscape, but also for their acoustic properties.

Early human occupation of Iberia: the chronological and palaeoclimatic inferences from Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain), di K. Martínez, J. Garcia, F. Burjachs, R. Yll, E. Carbonell, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 85, 1 February 2014, Pages 136–146

Vallparadís is one of the best calibrated and most accurately dated archaeological sites from the European Early Pleistocene. Chronological analyses combined with palaeomagnetism, ESR-U/series and OSL, and the biochronology of macro- and micromammals are fully consistent and situate the site just above the upper limit of the Jaramillo subchron. In this article we compare the mandibular first molar (m1) of individual adult specimens of Mimomys savini recovered from level 10 (EVT7) at Vallparadís with specimens from the stratigraphic sequence at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca), Fuente Nueva 3 and Barranco León D (Orce). This comparison allows us to chronostratigraphically relate level 10 at Vallparadís with level TD5 at Gran Dolina and to fix the former's chronology to around 0.98–0.95 Ma (MIS 27) and, therefore, prior to level TD6 in which fossil remains of Homo antecessor were recovered. The chronology of Vallparadís and the set of contemporary palaeoclimatic proxies regarding the Iberian Peninsula strengthen the hypothesis that hominins continuously populated Europe, at least in Iberia, throughout the late Early Pleistocene between the Jaramillo subchron and the Matuyama–Brunhes boundary by overcoming the climatic fluctuations and changes to the landscape that occurred during this period.

Shell bead production in the Upper Paleolithic of Vale Boi (SW Portugal): an experimental perspective, di F. Tátá, J. Cascalheira, J. Marreiros, T. Pereira, N. Bicho, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 42, February 2014, Pages 29–41

In this paper, we focused on shell bead production during the Upper Paleolithic at the site of Vale Boi in Southwestern Portugal as a means of understanding social visual transmission. Vale Boi has a long sequence dated to between c. 32 and 7 ka cal BP with well-preserved bone and shell assemblages from early Gravettian to Neolithic times. The archaeological shell bead collection includes over 100 specimens from the Gravettian, Proto-Solutrean, Solutrean and Magdalenian layers from Vale Boi, including at least 5 species: Littorina obtusata or Littorina fabalis, Trivia sp., Antalis sp., Mitrella scripta and Theodoxus fluviatilis. Experimental replication techniques included scratching, sawing, and hammering using lithic and bone implements on both internal and external sides of the shells. Experimental results indicate that there are a series of potential fabrication techniques for bead production, but there is a clear tendency in the archaeological record to use a single technique for each shell species. There also seems to be a focus on using a fast technique rather than a slower one, which seems to produce higher quality results. Finally, we also address the topic of the impact of bead production techniques on the evolution of bead design technology through all Upper Paleolithic record in SW Portugal.

Ivory debitage by fracture in the Aurignacian: experimental and archaeological examples, di C. E. Heckel, S. Wolf, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 42, February 2014, Pages 1–14

The recent focus on methods of osseous material transformation in the study of Upper Paleolithic technologies has shown that approaches to these materials vary between phases of the Upper Paleolithic. In the absence of the groove-and-splinter technique of blank extraction first widely documented in the Gravettian, production of ivory, bone, and antler blanks in the Aurignacian relied on processes of splitting and percussive fracture. The technological treatment of bone and antler in Aurignacian contexts has benefitted from renewed attention, but ivory processing and blank-production remains poorly understood in spite of the unique place that ivory occupies in many Aurignacian assemblages. In order to clarify the diagnostic features of ivory debitage, a series of experiments was conducted to produce ivory flakes under varying knapping conditions. These diagnostic features are products of the application of force to the complex internal morphology of proboscidean tusks, as explained in this article. Improved criteria for the identification of ivory flakes and manufacturing byproducts in the archaeological record are presented, and are illustrated with examples from two Aurignacian sites well known for ivory processing: Abri Castanet (Dordogne, France) and Hohle Fels Cave (Swabian Jura, Germany). A better understanding of ivory structure and improved identification of the products of ivory debitage in the Aurignacian will aid in the recovery and analysis of ivory artifacts and further efforts to reconstruct technological approaches to this complex material.

Neanderthal and Mammuthus interactions at EDAR Culebro 1 (Madrid, Spain), di J. Yravedra et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 42, February 2014, Pages 500–508

The association between elephants of the Mammuthus and Palaeoloxodon types and lithic tools is a recurrent phenomenon in Pleistocene sites. This has been a heavily debated topic. Thanks to the latest discoveries of cut and percussion marks in several archaeological sites, direct evidence of butchery practices generated by humans on elephants has been identified. Indirect evidence may also suggest a type of feeding activity. In this paper, the open-air site of EDAR Culebro 1 (Madrid, Spain) is presented, as well as a discussion about the possible interactions occurring between Neanderthals and Mammuthus cf. intermedius at this archaeological site.

Geoarchaeological and Bioarchaeological Studies at Mira, an Early Upper Paleolithic Site in the Lower Dnepr Valley, Ukraine, di J. F. Hoffecker et alii, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 61–77, January/February 2014

New geoarchaeological and bioarcheological research was undertaken at the open-air site of Mira, which is buried in deposits of the Second Terrace of the Dnepr River, roughly 15 km downstream from the city of Zaporozhye in Ukraine. Previous excavation of the site revealed two occupation layers dating to ∼32,000 cal BP. The lower layer (II/2) yielded bladelets similar to those of the early Gravettian, while the upper layer (I) contained traces of an artificial shelter and hundreds of bones and teeth of horse (Equus latipes). Mira represents the only firmly dated early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) site in the Dnepr Basin, and occupies a unique topographic setting for the EUP near the center of the broad floodplain of the Dnepr River. The site was visited during a period of floodplain stability, characterized by overbank deposition and weak soil formation under cool climate conditions. Mira was used as a long-term camp, but also was the locus of large-mammal carcass processing associated with a nearby kill of a group of horses (Layer I).

L'orso e i Neandertal, di  M. Romandini, M. Peresani, S. Scaramucci e N. Nannini, "Archeologia Viva", n. 163, gennaio-febbraio 2014, pp. 54-61

Ci troviamo nell'altopiano di Pradis, sulle Prealpi Carniche, provincia di Pordenone. Fra le molte cavità di natura carsica presenti nella zona c'è la Grotta del Rio Secco, uno dei rari siti del Paleolitico medio italiano (l'epoca che, fra circa 300 mila e 40 mila anni fa, vide il popolamento del continente europeo da parte dell'uomo di Neandertal) ad aver restituito tracce certe della caccia e del consumo dell'orso nella preistoria. Si tratta di un vasto riparo sulla riva sinistra del Rio Secco, a una ventina di metri d'altezza rispetto al corso attuale del torrente. Al centro del riparo si apre un'ampia cavità che al momento della scoperta era quasi totalmente ostruita da sedimenti e detriti.

Technical Note: Virtual reconstruction of KNM-ER 1813 Homo habilis cranium, di S. Benazzi, G. Gruppioni, D. S. Strait, J. J. Hublin, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 153, Issue 1, pages 154–160, January 2014

A very limiting factor for paleoanthropological studies is the poor state of preservation of the human fossil record, where fragmentation and deformation are considered normal. Although anatomical information can still be gathered from a distorted fossil, such specimens must typically be excluded from advanced morphological and morphometric analyses, thus reducing the fossil sample size and, ultimately, our knowledge of human evolution. In this contribution we provide the first digital reconstruction of the KNM-ER 1813 Homo habilis cranium. Based on state of-the-art three-dimensional digital modeling and geometric morphometric (GM) methods, the facial portion was aligned to the neurocranium, the overall distortion was removed, and the missing regions were restored. The reconstructed KNM-ER 1813 allows for an adjustment of the anthropometric measurements gathered on the original fossil. It is suitable for further quantitative studies, such as GM analyses focused on skull morphology or for finite element analysis to explore the mechanics of early Homo feeding behavior and diet. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:154–160, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

The fundamental hominin niche in late Pleistocene Central Asia: a preliminary refugium model, di T. A. Beeton, M. M. Glantz, A. K. Trainer, S. S. Temirbekov, R. M. Reich, "Journal of Biogeography",Volume 41, Issue 1, pages 95–110, January 2014 - open access -

We examine hominin presence in Central Asia during the late Pleistocene in order to identify the abiotic characteristics that best predict site distribution during interglacial and glacial periods. Our goal is to build a preliminary framework for climate-mediated hominin dispersals in this understudied part of the Old World.
We developed an ecological niche model using presence-only data to explain the spatial relationship of abiotic variables and hominin locations (n = 15) during glacial–interglacial transitions. The model was evaluated using the Cramér–von Mises goodness-of-fit statistic and empirical K-function.
Hominin locations were spatially aggregated during both glacial and interglacial periods. Of the abiotic variables analysed on a small scale (30-m resolution), only distance to water differed significantly between glacial and interglacial periods, although most locations were within 5 km of water. At a coarse scale (5-km resolution), hominin locations appear to have been constrained by low temperatures during glacial periods, but not during interglacials.
Hominin groups did not abandon Central Asia during colder periods. This suggests one of three possibly complementary scenarios: (1) late Pleistocene hominin groups had a more flexible behavioural repertoire than previously anticipated and were able to buffer climatic instability culturally; (2) our study area was not as hostile an environment as traditionally considered; and (3) the area examined here represents a refugium during late Pleistocene glaciations. (...)

A series of Mousterian occupations in a new type of site: The Nesher Ramla karst depression, Israel, di Y. Zaidner, A. Frumkin, N. Porat, A. Tsatskin, R. Yeshurun, L. Weissbrod, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 66, January 2014, Pages 1–17

We report the discovery of a new type of hominin site in the Levant, inhabited during MIS 6–5. The site, found within a karst depression at Nesher Ramla, Israel, provides novel evidence for Middle Paleolithic lifeways in an environmental and depositional setting that is previously undocumented in the southern Levant. The carbonate bedrock in the area is characterized by surface depressions formed by gravitational sagging of the rock into underlying karst voids. In one such depression, an 8 m thick sequence comprising rich and well-preserved lithic and faunal assemblages, combustion features, hundreds of manuports and ochre was discovered. Here we focus on the geological and environmental setting and present optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages for the 8 m sequence, aiming to place the site within a firm chronological framework and determine its significance for a more complete reconstruction of cultural developments in the Levantine Middle Paleolithic. To that end, preliminary results of the lithic and faunal studies are also presented.

A reassessment of the presumed Neandertal remains from San Bernardino Cave, Italy, di S. Benazzi, M. Peresani, S. Talamo, Q. Fu, M. A. Mannino, M. P. Richards, J. J. Hublin, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 66, January 2014, Pages 89–94

In 1986–1987, three human remains were unearthed from macro-unit II of San Bernardino Cave (Berici Hills, Veneto, Italy), a deposit containing a late Mousterian lithic assemblage. The human remains (a distal phalanx, a lower right third molar and a lower right second deciduous incisor) do not show diagnostic morphological features that could be used to determine whether they were from Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens. Despite being of small size, and thus more similar to recent H. sapiens, the specimens were attributed to Neandertals, primarily because they were found in Mousterian layers. We carried out a taxonomic reassessment of the lower right third molar (LRM3; San Bernardino 4) using digital morphometric analysis of the root, ancient DNA analysis, carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses, and direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating of dentine collagen. Mitochondrial DNA analysis and root morphology show that the molar belongs to a modern human and not to a Neandertal. Carbon 14 (14C) dating of the molar attributes it to the end of the Middle Ages (1420–1480 cal AD, 2 sigma). Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses suggest that the individual in question had a diet similar to that of Medieval Italians. These results show that the molar, as well as the other two human remains, belong to recent H. sapiens and were introduced in the Mousterian levels post-depositionally.

Late Acheulean technology and cognition at Boxgrove, UK, di D. Stout, J. Apel, J. Commander, M. Roberts, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 41, January 2014, Pages 576–590

The Acheulean industrial complex combines technological variability with continuity on a scale unparalleled by more recent industries. Acheulean variability includes a widely recognized increase in biface refinement from the Early to Late Acheulean, however the specific timing and technological nature of this shift remain unclear as do its behavioral, cognitive, and evolutionary implications. To investigate this topic, we examined lithic collections from the early Middle Pleistocene Acheulean site of Boxgrove for evidence of the use of platform preparation as a biface thinning technique. To aid in the identification and assessment of platform preparation, Boxgrove artifacts were compared with experimental products of Inexperienced, Novice, and Expert stone knappers. Results demonstrate the technologically efficacious use of platform preparation among the Boxgrove toolmakers ~500 thousand years ago, providing the first direct evidence of this technique in the Acheulean. The use of platform preparation in bifacial thinning increases the complexity of toolmaking action sequences and has implications for understanding the neurocognitive substrates, social transmission, and spatiotemporal distribution of Late Acheulean technology.

The genomic landscape of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans, di S. Sankararaman, S. Mallick, M. Dannemann, K. Prüfer, J. Kelso, S. Pääbo, N. Patterson, D. Reich, "Nature - Letter", 29 January 2014, doi:10.1038/nature12961

Genomic studies have shown that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, and that non-Africans today are the products of this mixture1, 2. The antiquity of Neanderthal gene flow into modern humans means that genomic regions that derive from Neanderthals in any one human today are usually less than a hundred kilobases in size. However, Neanderthal haplotypes are also distinctive enough that several studies have been able to detect Neanderthal ancestry at specific loci1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. We systematically infer Neanderthal haplotypes in the genomes of 1,004 present-day humans9. Regions that harbour a high frequency of Neanderthal alleles are enriched for genes affecting keratin filaments, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles may have helped modern humans to adapt to non-African environments. We identify multiple Neanderthal-derived alleles that confer risk for disease, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles continue to shape human biology. An unexpected finding is that regions with reduced Neanderthal ancestry are enriched in genes, implying selection to remove genetic material derived from Neanderthals. Genes that are more highly expressed in testes than in any other tissue are especially reduced in Neanderthal ancestry, and there is an approximately fivefold reduction of Neanderthal ancestry on the X chromosome, which is known from studies of diverse species to be especially dense in male hybrid sterility genes10, 11, 12. These results suggest that part of the explanation for genomic regions of reduced Neanderthal ancestry is Neanderthal alleles that caused decreased fertility in males when moved to a modern human genetic background.

· Modern human genomes reveal our inner Neanderthal, di E. Callaway, "Nature - News", 29 January 2014

· Resurrecting Surviving Neandertal Lineages from Modern Human Genomes, di B. Vernot, J. M. Akey, "Science", January 29 2014, DOI: 10.1126/science.1245938

· I geni dei Neanderthal che sono in noi, "Le Scienze", 29 gennaio 2014

Separating endogenous ancient DNA from modern day contamination in a Siberian Neandertal, di P. Skoglund, B. H. Northoff, M. V. Shunkov, A. P. Derevianko, S. Pääbo, J. Krause, M. Jakobsson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", January 27, 2014, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318934111

One of the main impediments for obtaining DNA sequences from ancient human skeletons is the presence of contaminating modern human DNA molecules in many fossil samples and laboratory reagents. However, DNA fragments isolated from ancient specimens show a characteristic DNA damage pattern caused by miscoding lesions that differs from present day DNA sequences. Here, we develop a framework for evaluating the likelihood of a sequence originating from a model with postmortem degradation—summarized in a postmortem degradation score—which allows the identification of DNA fragments that are unlikely to originate from present day sources. We apply this approach to a contaminated Neandertal specimen from Okladnikov Cave in Siberia to isolate its endogenous DNA from modern human contaminants and show that the reconstructed mitochondrial genome sequence is more closely related to the variation of Western Neandertals than what was discernible from previous analyses. Our method opens up the potential for genomic analysis of contaminated fossil material.

Ardipithecus ramidus and the evolution of the human cranial base, di W. H. Kimbel, G. Suwa, B. Asfaw, Y. Rak, T. D. White, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", January 21, 2014, vol. 111, no. 3, pp. 948-953

The early Pliocene African hominoid Ardipithecus ramidus was diagnosed as a having a unique phylogenetic relationship with the Australopithecus + Homo clade based on nonhoning canine teeth, a foreshortened cranial base, and postcranial characters related to facultative bipedality. However, pedal and pelvic traits indicating substantial arboreality have raised arguments that this taxon may instead be an example of parallel evolution of human-like traits among apes around the time of the chimpanzee–human split. Here we investigated the basicranial morphology of Ar. ramidus for additional clues to its phylogenetic position with reference to African apes, humans, and Australopithecus. Besides a relatively anterior foramen magnum, humans differ from apes in the lateral shift of the carotid foramina, mediolateral abbreviation of the lateral tympanic, and a shortened, trapezoidal basioccipital element. These traits reflect a relative broadening of the central basicranium, a derived condition associated with changes in tympanic shape and the extent of its contact with the petrous. Ar. ramidus shares with Australopithecus each of these human-like modifications. We used the preserved morphology of ARA-VP 1/500 to estimate the missing basicranial length, drawing on consistent proportional relationships in apes and humans. Ar. ramidus is confirmed to have a relatively short basicranium, as in Australopithecus and Homo. Reorganization of the central cranial base is among the earliest morphological markers of the Ardipithecus + Australopithecus + Homo clade.

Baboon Feeding Ecology Informs the Dietary Niche of Paranthropus boisei, di G. A. Macho, January 08, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084942 - open access -

Hominins are generally considered eclectic omnivores like baboons, but recent isotope studies call into question the generalist status of some hominins. Paranthropus boisei and Australopithecus bahrelghazali derived 75%–80% of their tissues’ δ13C from C4 sources, i.e. mainly low-quality foods like grasses and sedges. Here I consider the energetics of P. boisei and the nutritional value of C4 foods, taking into account scaling issues between the volume of food consumed and body mass, and P. boisei’s food preference as inferred from dento-cranial morphology. Underlying the models are empirical data for Papio cynocephalus dietary ecology. Paranthropus boisei only needed to spend some 37%–42% of its daily feeding time (conservative estimate) on C4 sources to meet 80% of its daily requirements of calories, and all its requirements for protein. The energetic requirements of 2–4 times the basal metabolic rate (BMR) common to mammals could therefore have been met within a 6-hour feeding/foraging day. The findings highlight the high nutritional yield of many C4 foods eaten by baboons (and presumably hominins), explain the evolutionary success of P. boisei, and indicate that P. boisei was probably a generalist like other hominins. The diet proposed is consistent with the species’ derived morphology and unique microwear textures. Finally, the results highlight the importance of baboon/hominin hand in food acquisition and preparation. (...)

Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, di W. Rendu et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", January 7, 2014. vol. 111, no. 1

The bouffia Bonneval at La Chapelle-aux-Saints is well known for the discovery of the first secure Neandertal burial in the early 20th century. However, the intentionality of the burial remains an issue of some debate. Here, we present the results of a 12-y fieldwork project, along with a taphonomic analysis of the human remains, designed to assess the funerary context of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal. We have established the anthropogenic nature of the burial pit and underlined the taphonomic evidence of a rapid burial of the body. These multiple lines of evidence support the hypothesis of an intentional burial. Finally, the discovery of skeletal elements belonging to the original La Chapelle aux Saints 1 individual, two additional young individuals, and a second adult in the bouffia Bonneval highlights a more complex site-formation history than previously proposed.

Earliest evidence for caries and exploitation of starchy plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from Morocco, di L. T. Humphrey et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", January 6, 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1318176111

Dental caries is an infectious disease that causes tooth decay. The high prevalence of dental caries in recent humans is attributed to more frequent consumption of plant foods rich in fermentable carbohydrates in food-producing societies. The transition from hunting and gathering to food production is associated with a change in the composition of the oral microbiota and broadly coincides with the estimated timing of a demographic expansion in Streptococcus mutans, a causative agent of human dental caries. Here we present evidence linking a high prevalence of caries to reliance on highly cariogenic wild plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from North Africa, predating other high caries populations and the first signs of food production by several thousand years. Archaeological deposits at Grotte des Pigeons in Morocco document extensive evidence for human occupation during the Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age (Iberomaurusian), and incorporate numerous human burials representing the earliest known cemetery in the Maghreb. Macrobotanical remains from occupational deposits dated between 15,000 and 13,700 cal B.P. provide evidence for systematic harvesting and processing of edible wild plants, including acorns and pine nuts. Analysis of oral pathology reveals an exceptionally high prevalence of caries (51.2% of teeth in adult dentitions), comparable to modern industrialized populations with a diet high in refined sugars and processed cereals. We infer that increased reliance on wild plants rich in fermentable carbohydrates and changes in food processing caused an early shift toward a disease-associated oral microbiota in this population.

· Anche i cacciatori-raccoglitori del Paleolitico soffrivano di carie, "Le Scienze", 09 gennaio 2014

Ancient European genomes reveal jumbled ancestry, di E. Callaway, "Nature news", 02 January 2014

Newly released genome sequences from almost a dozen early human inhabitants of Europe suggest that the continent was once a melting pot in which brown-eyed farmers encountered blue-eyed hunter-gatherers. Present-day Europeans, the latest work shows, trace their ancestry to three groups in various combinations: hunter-gatherers, some of them blue-eyed, who arrived from Africa more than 40,000 years ago; Middle Eastern farmers who migrated west much more recently; and a novel, more mysterious population whose range probably spanned northern Europe and Siberia. That conclusion comes from the genomes of 8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers — one man from Luxembourg and seven individuals from Sweden — as well as the genome of a 7,500-year-old woman from Germany. The analysis, led by Johannes Krause of the University of Tübingen, Germany, and David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, was posted on the biology preprint website bioRxiv.org on 23 December 20131. The results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. (...)

The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains, di K. Prüfer et alii, "Nature" 505, 43–49 (02 January 2014)

We present a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from Siberia. We show that her parents were related at the level of half-siblings and that mating among close relatives was common among her recent ancestors. We also sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal from the Caucasus to low coverage. An analysis of the relationships and population history of available archaic genomes and 25 present-day human genomes shows that several gene flow events occurred among Neanderthals, Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. Thus, interbreeding, albeit of low magnitude, occurred among many hominin groups in the Late Pleistocene. In addition, the high-quality Neanderthal genome allows us to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

 

 


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